Lower back pain represents the number one cause of disability worldwide, according to the Global Burden of Disease Study, with nearly half of working Americans reporting that they have back pain each year. Back pain may be acute, meaning that it lasts a relatively short period of time, or chronic, meaning that it persists for months or even years.
Although many people experience back pain throughout their lives, there are numerous conditions that cause symptoms of back pain. A consult at NYC Surgical will ensure you receive an accurate diagnosis of the underlying physical problems contributing to your back pain. After diagnosis, there are several treatment approaches that may alleviate your pain and restore your ability to perform everyday tasks pain-free. Whether surgery is required, or not, we will help devise the perfect plan for you.
What are the symptoms of lower back pain?
Although conditions affecting the lumbar region of the spine typically share a common symptom — pain in the lower back — you may experience other associated symptoms depending on the underlying problem.
The characteristics of lower back pain depend on numerous variables. Some people experience a sharp, stabbing pain when they try to twist or bend over. Others experience a dull, chronic ache that changes in intensity throughout the day.
In addition to pain in the lower back, you may experience muscle cramping, spasms, or back stiffness. In some cases, back pain can radiate to other areas of the body, including buttocks, legs, or hips. This may be accompanied by numbness or tingling in the legs or feet.
It’s important to pay attention to the time of day and types of movement that exacerbate your back pain. This provides important diagnostic information to a back pain specialist that can ensure that you get an accurate diagnosis.
What causes lower back pain?
Numerous physical conditions lead to lower back pain. Although an exact diagnosis can only be made by a physician, some of the common causes of lower back pain include:
Injury or overuse – Repetitive movement such as manual labor or frequent bending over can lead to spinal damage that may cause back pain. Similarly, acute injuries from sports, automobile accidents, or falls may contribute to pain. Although pain from an injury may remit after several weeks, significant damage may lead to chronic, debilitating back pain.
Compression fractures – Compression fractures occur when a vertebra collapses. This condition is often associated with osteoporosis, which is commonly seen in postmenopausal women. Placing even a small amount of pressure on the spine may lead to compression fractures in those who are vulnerable.
Herniated disc – Spinal discs are the cushions between the bones of the spine. Normal wear and tear or a back injury may cause a disc to bulge, causing back pain.
Osteoarthritis – During the normal aging process, cartilage becomes less flexible and begins to break down. This causes the bones of the spine to grind against one another, which leads to radiating back pain.
Spondylolisthesis – When spinal vertebrae have fractures or structural defects, the bone may not stay properly in place. In some cases, the vertebra slides forward or backward, a condition called spondylolisthesis. In addition to back pain, individuals with spondylolisthesis may experience weakness or numbness in the legs.
Spinal stenosis – Increasing age sometimes causes the spinal canal to narrow in size, putting pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots. This pressure can cause significant, debilitating pain.
Sacroiliac joint pain – Sacroiliac joint pain often mimics lower back pain with buttock pain being the most common symptom. Injection of lidocaine into the joint helps with proper diagnosis.
Acute back pain, which lasts less than two months, may be successfully treated using conservative measures. Taking ibuprofen (e.g., Advil), acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol), naproxen (e.g., Aleve), aspirin, or another over-the-counter pain medication can reduce symptoms of back pain. Although it may be tempting to stay in bed, only do so if your doctor prescribes rest. Staying active can actually strengthen your back and reduce pain. Your physician may recommend physical therapy, lifestyle steroid shots to improve pain management.
What happens when conservative treatments fail?
When conservative approaches to back pain treatment do not lead to symptom reduction, surgery may be necessary. The exact type of surgery performed depends on the underlying condition contributing to your pain. In many cases, an endoscopic, minimally invasive surgical solution can be performed, which is much less traumatic compared to traditional back surgery. This less invasive procedure also reduces the risks of infection. At NYC Surgical, your surgeon will always choose the least invasive, least traumatic way to solve your problem.
Contact us at NYC Surgical to see how we can help you with back pain today.