Causes and Treatment for Back Pain

Back pain is the single leading cause of disability around the world, preventing many people from engaging in work and other everyday activities. Discomfort in the lower back is a common concern, affecting up to 80% of Americans at some point in their lifetime. Many will have more than one episode. Back pain is more common as you age starting around age 30 or 40.

Conditions commonly linked to back ache include: muscle or ligament strain from repeated heavy lifting or sudden awkward movements, bulging or ruptured disks, osteoarthritis that can lead to a narrowing of the space around the spinal cord—a condition called spinal stenosis, skeletal irregularities such scoliosis or curvature of the spine or osteoporosis, which can cause compression fractures in the vertebrae.

Obesity, poor muscle tone, infection, congenital abnormalities, abnormal growths such a tumor or bone spur, car accidents, and even smoking – which reduces blood flow to the lower spine – can lead to back pain. People prone to depression and anxiety appear to have a greater risk of back ache. People experience pain differently and at varying levels of intensity. Three classifications of back pain:

Axial pain. Also called mechanical pain, axial pain is confined to one spot or region. It may be described as a number of ways, such as sharp or dull, comes and goes, constant or throbbing. A muscle strain is a common cause of axial back pain as are facet joints and annular tears in discs.

Referred pain. Often characterized as dull and achy, referred pain tends to move around and vary in intensity. As an example, in the lower back, degenerative disc disease may cause referred pain to the hips and back of the thighs.

Radicular pain. Sharp, shooting pain that starts in the back and goes into one or both legs. Radicular pain can also be classified as sciatic nerve pain, a very common and painful condition.

In many cases, these back-pain symptoms will improve within two months even if no treatment is given. With some conditions, back pain can flare up and then subside, only to flare up again after a few weeks or months and gradually intensify over time.

Back discomfort can be uniquely complex, so proper diagnosis and treatment require a skilled specialist. The capable doctors and surgeons at Orthopedic Centers of Colorado (OCC) have extensive experience in diagnosing and treating all types of back disorders, from common to rare and complex types. After a physical exam and review of your medical history, your specialist may recommend imaging, such as an x-ray, CT scan MRI or EMG to inform your diagnosis.

Some types of acute back discomfort may improve with time and rest, in which case your doctor will closely monitor your progress. They might suggest hot or cold packs or over-the-counter medicines such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen to help with the discomfort. Certain anti-inflammatory medications or muscle relaxants may be used. Injections or nerve blocks can address a greater degree of pain. Braces or specially designed orthopedic corsets can provide extra back support.

The back doctors at OCC work with some of the most exceptional physical therapists to design individualized rehabilitation programs based on the type and severity of the pain, injury, or disease. The goal of rehabilitation is to return patients to the highest level of mobility, functioning, and independence possible while improving the overall quality of life.

Back pain can be incredibly disruptive to daily life. OCC’s highly trained surgeons and physicians are backed by a supportive team of administrative and clinical professionals who take a personalized, focused, and comprehensive approach to your orthopedic health. Our goal is to be your first choice for back relief. From scheduling and imaging to physical therapy and more, we are committed to providing the best experience and outcomes for each patient. Our offices are conveniently located across the front range and it’s easy to make an appointment. Find the provider that fits your needs and contact us today.

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