Back pain is one of the most common medical issues that affects millions of Americans each year. Fortunately, taking some simple measures can usually help prevent or relieve your symptoms. Continue reading to learn more about what causes back pain and how to know when you should see a doctor.
Causes of Back Pain
Back pain is caused by structural or mechanical problems in the spine, such as bulging or ruptured intervertebral disc and narrowing of the spinal column, as well as sprained muscles, ligaments, and tendons in the back.
Other common issues linked to back pain include:
- Underlying medical conditions
- Spinal arthritis (osteoarthritis)
- Inflammatory arthritis (axial spondyloarthritis)
- Back injuries
- Spinal cord injury
- Compression fractures due to trauma
- Lifestyle factors
- Lack of exercise
- Poor posture
- Stress and anxiety
- Unexplained muscle pain (myofascial pain syndrome)
What Is Chronic Back Pain?
With self care, most cases of back pain subside after a few days. Back pain that lasts for more than three months, even after the initial injury or underlying cause has been resolved, is considered to be chronic or long-term. Chronic back pain may be challenging to manage and can significantly impact your quality of life.
Recommended treatments for chronic back pain may vary depending on the root cause of the pain and your symptoms. Below, we take a look at the most common types of treatments that don’t require a surgical intervention.
Nonsurgical Treatments for Chronic Back Pain
Physical therapy is the most common treatment for lower back pain. If you suffer from chronic back pain, a physical therapist will prescribe exercises to help strengthen your lower back muscles, including:
- Stretching and flexibility exercises
- Core strengthening
- Aerobic exercises
The goal of physical therapy is to reduce painful symptoms, increase the spine’s flexibility, and improve low back function. A therapist may also create a maintenance program to prevent back problems from reoccurring.
Mindfulness and meditation
Incorporating mindfulness and meditation into your daily routine are helpful tools in managing back pain. These techniques can help you relax and reduce stress levels, which can be a major contributor to back pain. In addition, mindfulness and meditation can increase body awareness, which will help you improve your posture and reduce back pain.
Research suggests that lower back pain may be linked to inflammation. To maintain your spinal health and reduce back pain, it is recommended to eat a balanced diet that includes foods with high levels of unsaturated fats, lean protein, and antioxidants. Avoid pro-inflammatory foods, such as saturated fats, foods high in trans fats, white flour, and sugars.
These simple life modifications can help you reduce back pain:
- Exercise regularly. Low-impact aerobic activities, such as walking, bicycling, swimming, and practicing yoga can help increase the strength of the muscles in the back.
- Maintain good posture while sitting, standing, and walking. Correct body posture can help reduce strain on your back and alleviate pain.
- Take frequent breaks. If you spend long periods of time sitting, take short breaks to stand up and stretch. This will help relieve tension in the back and reduce the risk of back pain.
- Use proper lifting techniques when handling heavy objects to avoid straining your back.
- Quit smoking. Smoking can reduce blood flow to the back, which may contribute to pain and discomfort.
- Maintain a healthy weight to avoid putting additional strain on the back.
If other treatments are not effective, your doctor may prescribe an injection-based treatment.
- Epidural steroid injections treat back pain caused by conditions such as spinal stenosis and herniated discs.
- Facet and sacroiliac joint injections deliver a local anesthetic or steroid medication directly to the affected joint.
- Trigger-point injections deliver a local anesthetic or medication to the muscle and help improve the range of motion.
Although injections may temporarily relieve back pain, they are not intended as long-term solutions and should be used in combination with other treatments.
Alternative treatments, such as massage, acupuncture, biofeedback therapy, laser therapy, and electrical nerve stimulation, are successfully used both on their own and alongside conventional therapies to alleviate back pain.
Acetaminophen )paracetamol) is one of the most frequently used treatments for chronic back pain. Other regularly prescribed medications include:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Topical analgesics
- Muscle relaxants
Pharmacologic treatments are usually part of a comprehensive pain management plan that may include other, non-pharmacologic treatments.
When to Visit an Urgent Care For Back Pain
Back pain can usually be managed with self-care measures such as rest, stretching, over-the-counter pain medications, and alternative treatments. However, sometimes it may be necessary to seek medical attention.
You should visit an urgent care facility as soon as possible in the following cases:
- Your back pain lasts for more than a few weeks
- You have severe pain that interferes with your ability to perform daily activities or sleep
- Your condition doesn’t improve with rest
- Your back pain occurs after an injury or fall
- You have weakness, numbness, or tingling in one leg
- You experience a loss of bowel or bladder control
- Your back pain is accompanied by fever
- You have unexplained weight loss.
An urgent care provider will provide a preliminary diagnosis and suggest medicines, physical therapy, or another treatment.
Low back pain is a common condition that affects most people at some point in their lives. While self-care measures and over-the-counter pain relievers may be effective in managing mild to moderate back pain, in more severe cases, it may be necessary to get medical attention.
If your pain interferes with your day-to-day activities and you can’t get an appointment with your doctor, visit an urgent care facility for fast and affordable treatment. At Centers Urgent Care, our highly-trained medical experts can help you with your back pain. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us through our contact page or to visit us in person.
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