Back pain can exist anywhere from the base of your neck to the tail end of your rib cage. The ribs connect to the sternum located in the center of the chest and extend around to the back area. If a nerve that exists in this area is irritated, pinched, or damaged, you will likely experience pain in other locations where the nerve passes through like your arms or stomach. The American Chiropractic Association reports that over half of the population in the United States experience some type of back pain each year, while 80 percent of the population will experience back pain during their lives.
The effects of back pain aren’t limited to individuals. In fact, the total annual medical cost of treating back pain in the U.S. exceeds $50 billion per year. It is also the leading cause of missed work and disability. Considering the impact back pain has on America’s economy and workforce, as well as the debilitating effects it has on individuals, understanding the causes and available treatment options is critical.
What Causes Back Pain?
Most patients who suffer from back pain do so as a result of:
- Strain, stress, and pressure that gradually accumulates over time
- Muscle damage or injury
- Ligament damage or injury
- Disc damage or injury
- Poor posture
- Excessive pressure applied to the spinal nerves
- A fractured vertebrae
- Osteoarthritis triggered by the depletion of cartilage in the spine
- Myofascial pain that irritates the connective tissue of an individual or cluster of muscles
Although uncommon, it is possible to experience back pain as a result of other health conditions like some type of infection or cancer.
What Are The Symptoms?
The majority of patients who suffer from back pain experience:
- Pain that ranges from dull to sharp
- Muscle stiffness or loss of flexibility
- Arm or leg weakness
- Tingling sensations within the arms, legs, or stomach
Diagnosing Back Pain
Allowing an experienced orthopedic doctor to conduct a complete examination is the first step to diagnosing back pain. Your orthopedic doctor will discuss the history of your health, ask what type of symptoms you’re experiencing, and the type of work or activities you perform on a regular basis. During the examination, they may request the use of an imaging device like an X-ray to understand the micro aspects of your condition or to understand if a herniated disc exists.
Depending on your condition and the extent of your pain, additional tests may be required to verify the root cause of your pain.
Most patients are able to address mild to moderate forms of back pain using:
- Over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or an anti-inflammatory drug like Aleve
- The application of heat or ice
- Low-impact exercise
- Message therapy
- Manual adjustments
However, if the extent of your back pain is significant, you may require particular treatment solutions that are more in-depth or invasive.
If you are currently suffering from back pain and would like to try to suppress your symptoms in conjunction with your doctor’s recommendations, consider:
- Getting more rest and slowly returning to your normal routine
- Use a heating back or ice pack
- Stretching and strengthening the muscles in your back, shoulders, and abdomen
- Maintain healthy, positive posture
- Relaxation or breathing techniques