Back pain is a common problem, affecting 80 percent of people at some point in their lives. But, not everyone’s discomfort is the same, and some signs and symptoms are more troubling than others.
Garden-variety back pain is often the result of a strain, which occurs when muscles or tendons in the back are overworked. Such small injuries account for a majority of cases of back-related discomfort.
However, back problems that persist for several months and longer are usually accompanied by chronic pain and significant symptoms, and should be evaluated by a spine and nerve doctor as soon as possible.
What causes chronic back problems?
Back injuries frequently occur when you use your back muscles in activities that you do not do very often, such as lifting a heavy object or doing yard work.
Minor injuries also may occur from tripping, falling a short distance, or excessive twisting of the spine.
Severe back injuries may result from car crashes, falls from significant heights, direct blows to the back or the top of the head, or from participating in any kind of contact sport.
The possibilities are endless!
Back pain can also?4 be accompanied with other symptoms too that require immediate medical attention such as- bowel or bladder problems, sudden or severe headaches or vision problems.
If you are experiencing any of those symptoms see a spine and nerve specialist asap!
So, now that we’ve gone over what can cause chronic back pain, let’s go over which types of back pain and related symptoms may be indicators of significant spinal conditions.
Common types of back pain:
Chronic back problems already usually caused by disc problems. The discs in your spine consist of a hard exterior and a soft jelly-like interior. They are found between each vertebra and allow for spine flexibility and range of motion.
Once the discs dry up — a process that begins as early as your 20s — you may experience a range of symptoms, including stiffness and pain.
As the discs begin to degenerate, they may herniate or push out, irritating the surrounding nerves and causing pain.
You have 24 disks in your spine and disc herniation can happen anywhere along your spine. can cause sharp and severe back pain which worsens when you’re active.
You could experience sharp and severe back pain symptoms in your shoulders, arms, buttocks or legs (depending on which disc is herniated); and the symptoms typically travel down one side of the body.
The best way to describe a herniated disc is to think of it as a jelly donut. Now imagine that the donut has a hole somewhere in it and you press down, causing the jelly to squirt out of it. Well, that’s exactly what happens to the nucleus pulposus from your actual disk in your spine.
When the nucleus pulposus pushes outside of the annulus fibrosis and touches a nerve, that’s when you experience the pain from a herniated disk.
Movement, injury, pressure, age or just plain bad luck can cause the nucleus pulposus to push through the annulus fibrosis – just like the inside of a jelly donut if you were to press down on it.
The pain from a herniated disc depends on the severity level of the herniated disk, and also what nerve is getting pinched. But, the good news is that the vast majority of herniated discs can be treated without surgery!
In fact, about 90% of patients suffering from a herniated disc are able to successfully treat their condition without surgery when visiting a spine specialist.
Pain caused by sciatica
Sciatica originates in the lower back and radiates deep into the buttock and travels down the leg.
Sciatica pain may also be accompanied by tingling and/or muscle weakness.
People who experience an episode of sciatica are often afraid to return to full activities because the pain is so severe that they don’t want it to occur again.
Common medical conditions that may cause sciatica include:
Sciatica is definitely a condition that you’ll want to visit a spine specialist for, and thankfully, there are several ways to manage and treat sciatica without surgery (depending on the cause).
Related symptoms that may be indicators of a significant spinal condition:
Leg pain and weakness.
Like we talked about above, sciatica is pain that originates in the lower back and travels down the legs – and may signal a serious problem.
Other back injuries that cause leg pain and weakness are a herniated disc or spinal stenosis. Both conditions cause the space around the spinal nerves to narrow, which may result in nerve pain and irritation.
Herniated discs usually have pain that radiates down one side of your body or leg. And pain from spinal stenosis typically affects both legs, sometimes in their entirety.
Like back pain, pain through the back of your legs may be dull or severe and can come in quick bursts, and are worsened by coughing or sneezing.
If you are experiencing leg pain and weakness, schedule a consultation with a spine specialist today! There are many non-surgical treatment options available to help relieve leg pain and muscle weakness.
Loss of bladder or bowel control.
Bladder or bowel incontinence may be signs of a Cauda equina syndrome aka CAS, which is a herniated disc or nerve compression caused by a ruptured disk.
CES is a syndrome that results in back pain and incontinence and usually develops due to compression on the cauda equina, a bundle of nerves in the lower back that is responsible for providing sensation to the groin area.
Other conditions that can cause back pain and incontinence to occur at the same time include:
- kidney stones
- a burst artery wall in the abdomen
- spinal cord injury
The sudden onset of incontinence and lower back pain is a medical emergency that requires immediate evaluation and treatment from a spine specialist.
If a person does not receive treatment promptly, they may be at greater risk of permanent nerve damage.
Stiffness in the morning.
It’s not always easy to get out of bed, but excessive morning back pain and stiffness could be a sign of spinal arthritis.
Most types of arthritis – including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis – cause pain and stiffness that worsen toward the end of the day and after periods of rest- like a night’s sleep.
Any part of the spine can become arthritic, but the lower back (lumbar region)is most commonly affected.
Thankfully, there are ways to manage the condition. Once diagnosed by a spine and nerve specialist using a physical exam and x-ray imaging, spinal arthritis can be treated without surgery. (Surgery is needed in rare cases)
What Can a Spine Specialist Do?
Back pain can be very disruptive. Misdiagnosis and improper treatment will only get you further away from relief which is why it’s so important to see a spine and nerve specialist.
A spine specialist can treat back pain, neck pain, herniated discs, nerve pain and much more!
They can create a treatment plan that includes medication, lifestyle changes, physical therapy, epidural injections, and more.
As we mentioned above, lower back pain caused by a herniated disc, for instance, can irritate the sciatic nerve, which is the longest nerve in the body. If this happens, you may have weakness, numbness, and tingling in your lower extremities. A spine specialist can help provide lasting relief from back pain, restore function, and get you back to living your best life.
If you are experiencing pain, don’t ignore it – seek treatment today!
Address Your Back Pain & Receive Treatment Without Surgery!
Persistent back pain is not uncommon, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be ignored. See a spine specialist if you experience any of the troubling signs and symptoms we mentioned above.
Dr. Alamarie, (a double board certified spine and nerve specialist) and his dedicated team at Southern Pain and Spine Specialists, are experts in the treatment of spine and nerve disorders, and offer the most advanced treatments for a variety of conditions. The best part? We can relieve and treat your pain without you having to get surgery!
To make an appointment, call 833-704-7246 or use our online request form by clicking here.
We’re the spine specialists that Charlotte, NC residents rely on!