Back pain is one of the most debilitating forms of discomfort. Your spine is at the center of your body, so if something goes wrong, you’re likely to be immobile for a while until it heals.
However, not all back pain is made equal. You may heal faster — or slower — depending on the causes of your back pain. Knowing when you can wait out back pain on your own and when you should go to the doctor can save you months — or even years — of discomfort.
Some of the Most Common Causes of Back Pain
Herniated or Slipped Discs
Your spine is made up of a collection of small bones known as vertebrae. Between your vertebrae, there are little disc-shaped cushions of soft tissue that allow you to flex and move your spine. Over time, these discs can wear down or move out of place. This is especially true if you do a lot of heavy lifting or other intensive back activity.
Herniated and slipped discs often happen in the lower back, where your spine is most mobile. The pain is the result of nerves being compressed because the disc is no longer protecting them. Pain may also occur in the hip because of how the nerve is being pressed. If you suspect you have a slipped disc, you should reach out to a spinal care specialist right away.
Discs can also bulge, which is a slightly less urgent problem than true herniation. Most of the time, a simple bulge won’t cause pain. Sometimes, though, the bulge can press on a nerve and cause shooting pains during movement.
Inflammation of the Sacroiliac Joint
Towards the bottom of your spine, there’s a joint called the sacroiliac joint. This is the point where your pelvis and back connect. It’s not a very mobile joint, but it supports the entire weight of your upper body.
When something goes wrong in the sacroiliac joint, it’s deeply painful.
The sacroiliac joint can become inflamed for a number of reasons. Anything that affects your pelvic region can lead to inflammation there. Arthritis is one of the common causes of back pain, but so is pregnancy. If you notice lower back pain that’s primarily on one side of your body, or pain that extends into your legs, it may be caused by a sacroiliac joint problem.
Older individuals are prone to a spine problem called spinal stenosis. What is it?
Over time, it’s possible for the spinal column to narrow. This slow narrowing puts extra pressure on the spine and the nerves alongside it. The narrowing is most likely to develop in the lower back and the neck — the more mobile parts of the spinal column.
The pressure that spinal stenosis causes tends to lead to numbness and tingling in the back, legs, and shoulders. It may also involve a feeling of muscle weakness and pain as the stenosis continues. People over the age of 60 who notice tingling, numbness, or pain in their extremities should immediately reach out to a doctor to discover whether the cause is spinal stenosis or something more serious.
Accidental Back Sprains and Strains
Back pain that can be traced back to an accident is most likely the result of a strain or sprain. There are many tendons, ligaments, and muscles along the spine that help support your body. Car accidents, falls, and even lifting or bending over improperly can lead to serious sprains of these supportive tissues. The result is acute back pain that gets better over time.
A strain is an injury to a muscle or tendon. Strains are most likely to occur after an improper lift or otherwise overstressing the back. Sprains, on the other hand, are injuries to ligaments that usually occur after falls, twists, or impacts. Both of these types of injuries are best treated with rest and over-the-counter painkillers.
If the pain doesn’t start to fade after a few days, then the problem may not be a simple strain or sprain. After all, accidents can cause more serious spinal injuries, too. If your pain remains or gets worse after a few days, you should reach out to a doctor to address whether the injury might be more serious.
A spinal fracture is the cracking of one of the vertebrae in your back. Spinal fractures are a possible result of serious accidents or falls. Not all spinal fractures immediately result in paralysis, but many can lead to serious spinal cord damage if not treated.
Silent spinal fractures, or fractures that don’t immediately cause spinal cord damage, often present similarly to strains and sprains. Additionally, sprains and strains typically occur alongside the fracture, sometimes masking the symptoms.
The primary sign that you have actually fractured a vertebrae is sudden, acute back pain that does not fade. If you are struggling with back pain that won’t heal after an accident, then you should make an appointment to have your pain properly diagnosed. That can be the difference between paralysis and a pain-free life.
Back pain can affect all parts of your life. It can reduce your mobility, it can prevent you from doing your job, and it can seriously affect your quality of life. That’s why you should never hesitate to get your back pain properly treated.
If you’re suffering from back pain, contact us at the Atlanta Spine Clinic. We can help you understand the cause of your pain and how to treat it effectively. You deserve to have your life back — pain-free. We’re here to help you achieve exactly that.