One of the largest areas of the human body, the back is also a complex interworking muscles, nerves, bones and joints. Unfortunately, all of these are capable of producing excruciating pain when agitated.
While there are cervical, thoracic, lumbar and pelvic sections of the back, the pain is often differentiated according to a more simple method. Depending on where the pain is located, it is (quite intuitively) called neck pain, upper back pain, lower back pain or tailbone pain.
The pain can be acute (sudden and sharp) or chronic (longer lasting, dull). The pain can stay in one specific location or move onto others. Even the nature of the pain can vary or change. Sharp piercing sensations are common, as are dull aches and burning feelings.
Back pain is one of the most common complaints in humans. Acute lower back pain alone is the reason for approximately twenty percent of visits to the physician.
Back Pain Classification and Diagnosis
Whilst back pain is rather easy to self-diagnose, it is considerably harder to classify. Besides the physical location of the painful sensation, back pain is also differentiated by its duration. Acute back pain generally lasts less than four weeks, sub-acute back pain for four to twelve weeks, and chronic back pain more than twelve.
Additionally, back pain can be differentiated by its underlying cause. This is harder to identify than one would initially think, and should generally be done by a physician. Causes of back pain can be physical trauma (musculoskeletal), cancer, infectious diseases, and many others.
While back pain can be a sign of a serious medical condition, it is most often not even diagnosed and goes away on its own. While back pain that is either serious in intensity or long in length should be examined by a doctor, the vast majority of cases resolve themselves.
Muscle strains, spasms, and imbalances are all capable of producing mild to extreme back pain. These are often undetectable by neuroimaging.
3 Back Pain Treatments
Because back pain can have a variety of causes, durations, and intensities, there are naturally a considerable amount of treatment options available. Only a small amount of back pain patients (approximately two percent) require surgical intervention.
Depending on the location, intensity, and duration of the pain, the following therapies may be helpful:
1. Medications such as opioids, muscle relaxants, NSAID’s and Acetaminophen help with pain management and inflammation. These drugs, however, all have various side effects and their usage and dose should be regulated heavily.
2. Heat therapy has shown considerable promise for treating back spasms and other conditions. A variety of heat settings can be used. Generally, the best effects are reported for acute and sub-acute pain.
3. Massage therapy has been reported to provide short-term relief for back conditions, acting much in the same way as a muscle relaxant would.
Other helpful methods are exercise, physical therapy, acupuncture, and posture control. All have specific benefits and drawbacks, and should be matched according to your pain type and duration. For the worst and most chronic of back pain sufferers, surgical intervention is an option.