Low Back Pain
LOW BACK PAIN
Back Pain Overview
Low back pain is difficult. It can interfere with your ability to work and carry out daily activities, negatively affect your relationships, and reduce your overall quality of life. Because the low back is subject to a lot of mechanical stress and strain, low back pain is a very common condition. For two to ten percent of those who experience it, low back pain becomes chronic, or lasts more than six months.
Because low back pain can be caused by a wide variety of conditions, it is important to see an expert, like one of the physicians at Summit Pain Alliance, who can reach an accurate diagnosis for your condition, and develop a comprehensive treatment plan that is unique to you.
You should see a doctor as soon as possible after developing acute or chronic back pain for three main reasons. First, it is important to rule out any serious and/or life-threatening conditions such as fractures, cancers, and infection. Second, inactivity due to pain can lead to weight gain and weakening of the muscles surrounding the spine, which can worsen your condition. Finally, pain management treatment plans are often more effective in providing relief if they are carried out earlier in the development of the condition.
BACK MUSCLE STRAIN OR LUMBAR SPRAIN
Acute pain can occur when the muscles or ligaments of the low back are over-stretched or torn. The area nearby can also become inflamed and cause muscle spasm. This type of injury can occur when lifting a heavy object, or due to a fall or sudden twisting motion. Your doctor will develop a unique pain management plan for this type of injury, which may include alternating heat and cold, chiropractic care, acupuncture, and medication.
DEGENERATION OF OR INJURY TO THE FACET JOINTS
The facet joints are small stabilizing joints that are found behind and between each of the vertebrae of the spine. They can normally slide over each other without much friction, as they are coated by lubricated cartilage.
When this cartilage breaks down due to age-related wear-and-tear, the joints can become inflamed, a condition called osteoarthritis of the facet joints. Car accidents, falls, sports, and other types of traumatic impact can cause injury to the facet joints and inflammation within the joints.
Both osteoarthritis and injury can cause significant pain, as there are many nerve fibers in the area. Your doctor may suggest a medial branch block or facet injection procedure in order to accurately diagnose your condition. If you are found to have a facet joint problem,
your doctor may suggest a treatment plan including back bracing, chiropractic care, physical therapy, acupuncture, medication, or a radiofrequency ablation procedure.
Degenerative spondylolisthesis, or the slipping of a vertebra out of place can occur as the result of facet arthritis. The pain caused by this condition is often treated with physical therapy, medication, and epidural steroid injections.
DEGENERATION OF OR INJURY TO THE INTERVERTEBRAL DISK(S)
The intervertebral disks are situated within the joints that are located between each of the bones, or vertebra, of the spine. The intervertebral disks cushion these joints and assist the spine in normal movement such as bending and twisting. They are a flat disk shape, and have a tough, fibrous outer layer and a gel-like inner layer.
Because they act as a shock absorber for the spine, the intervertebral disks can begin to breakdown due to age-related wear-and-tear, a condition called degenerative disk disease. Alternatively, the intervertebral disks can be injured by lifting heavy objects or through trauma occurring in event such as a car accident or fall.
Degeneration or injury can cause several painful low back conditions, including:
- Bulging disk – The intervertebral disk extends out past its normal borders within the joint structure far enough to put pressure on a nearby nerve. Alternatively, the inner gel-like material in the disk contains many powerful chemicals that can cause an inflammatory response which can irritate the adjacent nerve roots.
- Herniated disk – The inner layer of the intervertebral disk presses against the outer layer. A severe form of herniated disk is called an extruded disk, in which the inner material pushes all the way out of the external layer of the disk into the spinal column. Pain can be caused by the inner material of the disk irritating the nerves it comes in contact with, or from the inflammation of the disk putting pressure on a nerve.
- Annular tear – The outer layer of the intervertebral disk is torn, and the nerves are irritated by exposure to the inflammatory material in the inner layer. Depending on your unique body and particular diagnosis, your doctor may recommend physical therapy, acupuncture , chiropractic care, back bracing, non-surgical spinal decompression, medication, or epidural steroid injections to treat your intervertebral disk-related back pain.
Genes, age-related changes, injury, or disease can cause this condition, in which the spinal canal(s) becomes narrower and put pressure on the spinal cord or nerves. Physical therapy, medication, and epidural steroid injections are often recommended to treat the low back pain caused by this condition.
A vertebral fracture is fracture in one of the bones of the spine. This type of fracture can be caused by injury, such as a car accident or fall, or due to a disease that causes weakening of the bones, such as certain cancers or osteoporosis. Your doctor may recommend medication and rest to treat the pain related to your vertebral fracture. He may also suggest that you use a back brace or undergo a vertebral augmentation procedure to help the fracture heal correctly.