Back Pain: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Having back pain is seriously uncomfortable and debilitating. In fact, it is a highly common complaint and researchers suggest that about 80% of the people will suffer from back pain at least once in their lifetime. Back pain can be caused by many reasons. It may result from an injury or a stressful activity and even because of a medical condition. It can affect people regardless of their age, but for different reasons – most of which revolve around the lifestyle habits. As one gets older, the risk of developing back pain becomes higher. The pain may develop in the form of a dull, constant pain, or a sudden shrilling pain which comes and goes, or a chronic pain that lasts for a longer duration.

Pain in the back can also be categorized into upper & lower back pain. While the lower back pain is the more common medical condition, both of these types may have different causes. Upper back pains may be caused by aorta disorders, or development of tumors in the chest, and even because of spine inflammation.  Pain in the lower back can be related to the discs between the vertebrae, bony lumbar spine, ligaments around the spine or discs, the spinal cord itself, nerves, muscles at the lower portion of the back, pelvic and abdominal internal organs, and even the skin around the lumbar area of the body.

Causes of Back Pain

Some of the most common causes of back pain are exertion/ strain or problem(s) with your back structure. Here’s a list of causes linked to back pain:

  • Straining of the Muscles or the Ligament–This can be caused by repetitive lifting of heavy objects; or a sudden jerk which ends up straining the back muscles and/ or the spinal ligaments. Poor physical condition of the body is another factor that can cause straining of the muscles or ligaments resulting in painful spasms. Strains are caused by physical activities that are unusual or excessively taxing on the body.
  • Dislocation / Bulging/ Ruptured Disks – In layman terms, disks are the cushion between the bones present in our spines. These disks are made up of a soft material inside that can bulge or get ruptured and even start pressing on a nerve. This causes a pain that is mostly sever in nature and occurs rather frequently. There may also be a chance that you can have a ruptured or bulging disk, but feel no back pain. However, this is less likely to occur and most of the damage to the disks is usually detected when you undergo a spinal x-ray.
  • Arthritis Condition –People suffering from arthritis are prone to develop pains in the back just like pains in other parts of the body like knee joints, etc. A condition called osteoarthritisis known to affect the lower back causing acute pains.
  • Irregular Spinal Structure – One can also experience back pains due to irregularities in the spinal structure. Scoliosis is one such condition wherein your spine’s lateral curvature is not right and it tends to curve towards the side. This condition results in back pain, but typically not until you reach the middle age bracket.Osteoporosis is another such condition whenthe vertebrae develop compression fractures because the bones start becoming porous and brittle. It also causes pain and cannot be determined without an examination.

Symptoms of Back Pain

Symptoms of back pain are relatively easier to identify and notice:

  • Aching in the muscles around the back
  • Sudden or shooting pain/ feeling like stabbing
  • Pain that feels like travelling down your leg from the back
  • Worsening pain with activities like lifting, standing up, bending, even walking
  • Pain that tends to ease out when you recline

Treating Back Pain

Most cases of back pain will get better by simple home treatment remedies within a matter of weeks. However, it is not necessary that this rule of thumb applies to everybody. Each individual may have a different condition that is causing pain in the back, and hence, it is important to know when to stop relying on home based remedies and visit a physician.

For individual experiencing acute back pains, taking pain relievers and applying heat pads might be all they need. As a general practice, continue to perform your daily tasks as much as you can tolerate. Refrain from activities that increase the pain, or maybe try reducing the intensity of such activities, like lifting, etc. If home remedies don’t seem to be working much, consult your physicianwho would prescribe the right kind of medication for your problem.

Depending on the conditionthat you have, the physicianmay recommend the following:

  • Pain Relievers – Non-steroidalanti-inflammatory drugs typically help relieve acute back pain. However, overuse of such drugs can cause serious side effects, so it is always advised to consume them only as prescribed by your physician.
  • Muscle Relaxants& Topical Pain Relievers – Muscle relaxants are usually prescribed when the OTC pain relievers are not able to do the job. These relaxants can make you feel dizzy and sleepy, so they are mostly advised to be consumed at night.Topical pain relievers can also be prescribed like creams, ointments, etc. that you can rub onto the pain area to find relief.
  • Narcotic Drugs – In some rare cases, physicians can prescribe drug that contain opioids.These drugs are usually only used for a short duration of time, like a week or less.
  • Injections –When the common treatments and forms of medication don’t help in relieving your pain, your physician may resort to injecting cortisone (anti-inflammatory medication) or probably inject a numbing medication around your spinal cord.This is mostly done for people with unbearable pains or for those experiencing pain shooting down the legs from the spine.

It is important to know that while home remedies are the measure of first resort for any form of back pain, do not try and defer visiting your physician if the pain is not easing out even after a week or 10 days.