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Back Pain: What is it?

Back Pain: What is it?

Back pain, also known as dorsalgia, is commonly experienced by people of all ages. It can occur in different areas of the back and may originate from the spine, muscles, bones, or nerves. It may be caused by a sudden injury, or it may be a chronic long-term pain. The exact sensation may be a sharp, piercing pain, dull ache, or even a burning feeling. It may be localized to one area, or it may move from one area to another. Back pain can radiate into other parts of the body or cause other symptoms including numbness, tingling, or weakness.

Is Back Pain Common?

The vast majority of adult experience back pain at one time or another. Whether the pain is constant or intermittent, an astonishing nine out of ten adults report experiencing it at some point, and acute lower back pain is the fifth most common reason for physician visits in the United States. Back pain in itself is a symptom of a more significant problem. The exact nature of the underlying problem can be determined through physical examinations and diagnostic imaging tests.

What is Causing the Pain?

Back pain can be divided into four categories depending on the location of discomfort. These areas include the cervical, thoracic, lumbar, and pelvic spine. More commonly, discomfort affecting these areas is referred to as neck pain, upper back pain, lower back pain, and tailbone pain. The regions affected may vary depending on the type of injury or an underlying condition. A large percentage of back pain is caused by muscle strain that can heal on its own with time. Unfortunately, this type of damage can be challenging to diagnose because it does not show up in medical imaging studies. Back pain may also be caused by the joints, discs, and nerves in the spine. Spinal injuries and disorders can be challenging to diagnose because many problems can cause similar symptoms. Also, some of these disorders can be difficult to detect even with advanced medical imaging equipment.

How do I Treat Back Pain?

Because some inflammation causes a great deal of back pain, doctors often try first to treat it using anti-inflammatory medications and pain medicine. In many cases, such prescriptions are highly effective in relieving back pain. Muscle injuries and strains may be relieved through massage, and a chiropractor may be able to help with some spinal issues. In other cases, more invasive treatment may be needed. When discs or joints become damaged through an injury or deformity, it is often necessary to repair the damage surgically. Patients may need to see a physical therapist learn how to cope with chronic pain. They may also be able to help with exercises that can help restore range of motion and reduce pain.