BACK AND SPINE PAIN
Millions of Americans suffer from chronic back pain and are searching for ways to restore a better quality to their lives. Surgery is a last resort method of treating back pain, with most doctors opting to use conservative management protocols to help patients feel more comfortable. As a pain management facility, we offer a range of solutions that patients may find advantageous to their situation.
What Conditions Cause Back & Spine Pain?
Back pain is often the result of some form of misalignment in the way the spinal joints, discs, nerves, and muscles fit together. A thorough medical exam can be performed to find the source of this misalignment and the extent of nerve compression that is happening. Common conditions that could lead to back pain include:
- Bulging disc. This mild protrusion of a spinal disc can press on nerves, causing irritation.
- Herniated disc. Moderate to severe protrusion of a spinal disc may result in the inner gelatinous material in the disc to seep out and irritate nerve roots.
- Degenerative disc disease is a progressive condition that involves excessive wear and tear of the cushiony discs between pairs of vertebrae.
- Spinal stenosis is a condition in which the inner canal of the spine becomes narrow. The closing of the space presses on nerves and the spine. In addition to pain, spinal stenosis can cause numbness and tingling.
- Degeneration of the sacroiliac joint in the low back near the pelvis may occur with age or due to pregnancy or an injury. Wear and tear on the joint can decrease cartilage and result in arthritis.
What Is the Difference Between Upper and Lower Back Pain?
Both upper and lower back pain may result from trauma or sudden injury. Conditions that trigger spinal pain may also occur due to poor posture or from the regular strain the joints and muscles endure during daily activities.
Upper back pain is common and related to the normal movements that the body may engage in. Problems in the upper spine may stem from the way a person sits at their desk or whether they slouch then sitting. Common activities such as working in the yard or playing sports may lead to an injury in the muscle or spinal structure. In general, upper body mechanics or injury from an accident can cause muscular irritation or joint dysfunction that affects the nerves exiting the spine.
Similar to upper back pain, the development of low back pain is commonly instigated by acute trauma or overuse. The nerves that exit the spine at the low back are naturally under additional pressure, which may result from weight and gravity. This pressure may cause disc herniation as well as osteoarthritis over time.
How can Back Pain be Treated with Pain Management? What Are My Options?
Back pain is often treated conservatively using a combination of modalities. These include:
- Medication. Most people who develop acute or chronic back pain rely on some type of medication to improve comfort and mobility. Options include over-the-counter analgesics to reduce pain and anti-inflammatories to manage irritation in the injured tissue. Doctors sometimes prescribe muscle-relaxants for patients who have suffered a traumatic back injury.
- Physical therapy is commonly recommended by doctors for people with acute or chronic back pain. Treatment is customized to the individual but generally seeks to strengthen the muscles that support the spine, improve posture, and restore flexibility and range of motion.
- Minimally invasive laser treatment may be considered to permanently shut off nerve receptors in an area of chronic pain.
- Epidural. This injection therapy deposits corticosteroid medication into the space around the spine to reduce inflammation that is causing pain.
Today, we also have innovative ways to address back pain using biological agents obtained from the patient’s own body. Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is an example. This form of injection therapy deposits platelets, specialized blood cells, into damaged tissue to instigate a healing response. PRP has numerous growth factors that assist with tissue repair and inflammation reduction. Stem cell therapy may use the patient’s own cells or stem cells derived from carefully-screened umbilical cord tissue. This form of therapy is still in its infancy but has demonstrated the ability to reduce inflammation through the release of certain proteins. Stem cells are also capable of transforming into bone or cartilage cells. They are currently being studied to determine the degree of tissue regeneration they can achieve.
What Are the Risk Factors for Back and Spine Pain?
- Back pain often occurs as a result of an injury. However, sometimes, no identifiable reason can be found. Common risk factors include:
- Age. Because our cartilage wears down over time and our bones may weaken, back pain is more prevalent among older age groups. However, disc-related disorders have been diagnosed in patients as young as their thirties.
- Genetics. Certain conditions, such as degenerative disc disease, are believed to have a genetic component, which means the risk for some problems could be inherited.
- Usage. A sedentary lifestyle that lacks regular exercise increases the risk of lower back pain. Likewise, occupations that require heavy lifting or a lot of bending also make a person susceptible to back pain.
- Poor posture. Sitting at a desk or standing for long periods hold risks if the body is not held in good posture. Slouching over when working at a computer or driving adds pressure to certain parts of the spine.
- Obesity. The body frame is made to carry a relative weight. Exceeding that adds unnecessary stress to all joints and muscles, including the back.
Can Exercise Help Relieve Back and Spine Pain?
Back pain can decrease a person’s desire to exercise. However, it is important to engage in appropriate movements that strengthen the back muscles, as well as the stomach and legs. Exercise increases circulation and delivers blood and oxygen to damaged tissues. However, when back pain is present, it is important to discuss appropriate exercises with a physical therapist or doctor to avoid incurring more damage to injured joints or tissues.
Schedule a Consultation
If you are looking for nonsurgical solutions for back pain, contact us at 215-375-7107. The team in our Philadelphia or Upper Darby office can help you explore innovative treatments that may be appropriate for you.