Back pain can be a particularly troublesome ailment for many people. It can range from mild to severe, but it usually means something is wrong with your back. If you have experienced back pain in the past, you will likely experience it again at some point in your life.
The good news is that most back pains are not severe and will go away on their own after a few days or weeks. However, there are some cases where the pain may be more severe and require treatment. The first step in determining whether your back pain is serious is understanding the different types of back pain and what they mean.
Types of back pain
Acute Back Pain
Acute back pain is usually caused by one of three things: strain, sprain, or fracture. Strains are muscle injuries, sprains are ligament injuries, and fractures are breaks in the bone. Acute back pain can also be caused by a ruptured disc or herniated disc, which is when the soft center of a spinal disc pushes through a weak outer ring.
Back pain can be very debilitating, but it’s not always serious. When you have acute back pain, your doctor may prescribe medications to relieve your symptoms and physical therapy to help you recover. If the pain doesn’t improve after several days, your doctor will likely recommend an X-ray or MRI scan.
Chronic back pain
Chronic back pain is a condition that lasts for at least three months. It can be caused by an injury or repeated stress on one part of the spine. The pain may also be due to arthritis, herniated discs, or degenerative disc disease.
Chronic back pain can sometimes be managed with rest and physical therapy. If you have chronic back pain, it’s essential to see a doctor specializing in treating it.
Causes of back pain
The most common causes of back pain include:
Strain is caused by overuse or repetitive movements. For example, carrying a heavy bag can strain your shoulder and upper back muscles.
This occurs when the soft inner core of an intervertebral disc pushes out through a tear in its outer ring (annulus fibrosus). The result is pain, numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness in the area served by the nerve root that exits through that particular disc.
This condition is characterized by narrowing of the spinal canal. The nerves exiting from each spinal level are compressed against bone spurs or bony growths (spondylosis) at their exit point from the spinal column.
Arthritis occurs when cartilage degenerates and joint surfaces begin to rub together. Arthritic changes can occur anywhere in your spine, but they’re most common at joints where two vertebrae meet (facet joints). These joints are located between each pair of vertebrae from just below your neck down to your tailbone.
Back pain can be debilitating and should be taken seriously by the individual experiencing pain. Be sure to see a doctor if you are in severe pain or if your symptoms last more than two weeks.