You drop your pen. When you bend over to pick it up, pain shoots up your spine like a bolt of white-hot lightning. Maybe it’s less sudden, and you’ve been dealing with back pain for years with little improvement.
In either case, you may need to see your doctor, or you may want to make some lifestyle modifications. You can prevent many common back injuries by moving correctly, and you can also alleviate pain through a variety of therapies. It depends on your situation.
With that in mind, what are some of the most common causes of back pain? When you understand the issue you can take the first step toward getting the help you need.
Common Causes Of Back Pain
Several conditions can cause back pain. Sometimes, the ache arises from an acute injury — you twist too far or bend over too quickly. In other instances, the agony stems from a degenerative disease or genetic factors.
- Strains and sprains: These are the most common back injuries that arise from movement. A strain involves the muscles or the tendons connecting them to bones, while sprains tear the ligaments that hold bones together.
- Disc disorder: Degenerative disc disease is what it sounds like. Your vertebrae start to break down over time. Herniated or ruptured discs occur when the vertebrae bulge outward, causing pain.
- Sciatica: This condition involves the large nerve that runs through your buttocks down your leg. You’ll often feel pain radiating down one or both extremities. Did you know the sciatic nerve is the largest single nerve in the body? Laser Spine Center goes into detail about sciatica symptoms, treatments and more.
- Spinal stenosis: This condition occurs when the spinal column narrows, putting pressure on the nerves.
- Osteoporosis: Osteoporosis occurs when your bones lack sufficient calcium to maintain density. This weakness leads to fractures and shrinkage.
- Fibromyalgia: This autoimmune disorder affects the nerves and causes muscle spasms, usually surrounding specific trigger points.
- Endometriosis: In this reproductive disorder, the endometrial tissue that usually lines the uterus grows on other organs. If it develops on the ovaries or kidneys, you can experience lower back pain.
- Kidney stones: If you get kidney stones, you may feel low back pain, usually on one side.
Albeit rare, sometimes back pain does trigger a trip to the emergency room. If you experience difficulty with urination or bowel movements, seek medical attention immediately. Likewise, seek care if a fever accompanies your pain, or if you lose feeling in your legs.
Medical Treatments For Back Pain
Doctors treat back pain in three primary ways. They typically begin with a course of pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications. These include over-the-counter preparations and prescription drugs, including ibuprofen and acetaminophen. Most physicians advise you to use them sparingly due to the risk of side effects.
In severe cases, your doctor might prescribe opioids for chronic back pain. However, tighter prescribing guidelines can mean you’ll need to run to a clinic each month to get your medicine. Some doctors will no longer prescribe these medications for long-term use.
Other medications include muscle relaxers, such as cyclobenzaprine and tizanidine. While these can relieve pain from muscle spasms, they won’t help back pain that results from degenerative discs or stenosis.
Doctors also use injections to treat back pain. Steroid injections can alleviate pain for a significant time. However, side effects include the breaking down of surrounding cartilage and tissues.
Finally, if no treatments prove useful, your doctor may recommend surgery. They use a variety of techniques, including lasers, instead of scalpels. Any surgery entails some risks, so evaluate your options carefully before taking this step.
Preventing Back Pain And Healing Holistically
If you’re not ready to head to the doctor, you have options for preventing back pain. You can also treat it holistically.
To prevent back pain, learn proper lifting techniques. When you pick up heavy objects, squat down with your legs by bending your knees. Let your quadriceps and hamstrings do the work while you keep your back relatively straight.
If you’re overweight, follow a healthy diet and exercise for at least 30 minutes most days of the week. Try to lose the excess pounds. Quit smoking, as well. You can find free resources to help you even if you lack health insurance coverage. Smoking narrows blood vessels, which makes it harder for blood to reach tender areas.
Many patients with back pain find relief from practicing yoga. One pose that helps many is the cat-cow pose. To perform this asana, get down on all fours on the floor. As you inhale, arch your back like a scared cat. As you exhale, bow your back slightly, lifting your head and your tailbone. You can also find relief with twisting poses, such as the seated twist.
If you have the budget for it, treat yourself to a professional massage. Are you lacking the extra money? You can find foam rollers for less than $20 at major online and in-store retailers. Learn how to perform myofascial release moves on yourself. This technique works particularly well for conditions that cause muscle spasms, such as fibromyalgia.
Certain herbs can bring relief when applied topically. Preparations containing capsaicin draw blood to the surface of the skin, reducing inflammation. Adding relaxing herbs, such as chamomile and lavender, to your aromatherapy diffuser can help ease tension in the upper and lower back.
You Don’t Need To Endure Back Pain Any Longer
You don’t have to live with ongoing back pain. Give holistic and preventive therapies a try. If these don’t work to your satisfaction, call your doctor. Soon enough, you’ll address the issue and feel far better than you did before.