Upper Back Pain: When to Seek Help from Gramercy Pain Center
Management of upper back pain and even lower back pain may be done through home remedies that can help ease the pain within a span of a few weeks of self-help.
Medications that may be used to offer pain relief include over-the-counter pain relievers like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as naproxen sodium (Aleve) and topical pain relievers that may come in creams or patches.
However, a pain management doctor must already be contacted if the home treatment didn't work and persists longer than expected, making it a chronic back pain
Other warning signs you should watch out for that warrant you visiting an upper back pain specialist include:
Pain that's so severe that it can't be relieved by rest or over-the-counter medications
Pain that extends down the lower extremities, especially when it's below the knee
Weakness, numbness, or tingling sensation may be felt in one or both leg
You unintentionally and suddenly lost weight in addition to your spine pain
Emergency care must also be sought if the following are experienced:
Sudden difficulty in urinating and passing stools
Severe pain that awakens you at night
Fever accompanying the pain
The back pain is felt after experiencing injuries to your back like falling or slipping
Back Pain: What Your Body Might Be Telling You
Back pain can be characterized by a wide variety of symptoms, from muscle pain to feeling as if your back is burning or something’s stabbing you at the back. The pain may also be traveling or radiating from your back to your legs. It may also be exacerbated even by simple movements like bending, standing, or walking.
Back pain may be a symptom of another medical condition like a simple ligament or muscle strain from overwork or more serious conditions like bulging or ruptured discs, arthritis, and osteoporosis.
1) Ligament or Muscle Strain
Strain or sprain of the back may occur due to a sudden wrong lift or overexertion of muscles of the back that cause them to get injured and torn. Long-term stress in the back caused by repetitive back movements may also lead to the wear and tear of back muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Playing sports like weightlifting and football are also common reasons why a patient experiences ligament or muscle strain.
2) Bulging or Ruptured Discs
Disks in between the vertebrae serve as cushions in the spinal canal that prevent friction in between movement of the spine. However, in association with aging, disks may get less flexible and slip out of position (“slipped disc”). This dislocation of the disk may result in a pinched nerve, thus causing the characteristic nerve pain associated with this disorder. Sometimes, though, this doesn’t cause back pain and just accidentally becomes discovered upon spinal x-ray.
Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, typically manifests as lower back pain due to it affecting this part of the body. It’s a degenerative condition in which joint pain is experienced because the joints or the protective cushion in between the bones of the body wears down over time. This causes the ends of the bones to get damaged due to the uncontrolled friction between them.
Osteoporosis is the weakening of the bones causing them to be more vulnerable to fractures. It occurs when the bone renewal can’t keep up with the bone lost through time. Aside from back pain that’s due to damage to the vertebrae, other signs and symptoms of this disorder include a reduction in height and a stooped posture.
Types of Back Pain
Because back pain is a broad topic that may be caused by a wide range of etiologies, medical conditions that may cause back pain are categorized into 5 primary categories, namely:
- Spinal injuries - Injuries to structures at the back like intervertebral discs or soft tissues - Fractures - Lumbago - Disk herniation (“slipped disk”) - Pregnancy
- Cancers of the marrow - Compression of the nerve due to malignancies compressing the nerve - Lytic lesions that damage the spine
- Infections of the structures at the back like spine and discs - Abscesses (epidural, muscular, or soft tissue)
Taking the patient’s history enables a physician to narrow down the possible causes of the back pain of the patient, with the physician determining how intense the pain is or how it feels. Knowing how it’s provoked or relieved may also give clues as to its etiology.
Similarly, physical examination that’s done through inspecting and palpating the affected part and doing relevant tests like provocative maneuvers and neurologic examinations such as deep tendon reflexes also help determine what might be the cause of back pain.
How Back Pain is Diagnosed
Aside from history taking and physical examination, the physician may order other tests to pinpoint the exact cause of the back pain you’re suffering from, especially when it accompanies the common red flags of serious diseases like unexplained weight loss (malignancy), fever (infection), and contusions (fracture).
Tests that a physician may request include the following:
MRI or CT scans
Electrophysiological tests like electromyography (EMG)
How We Can Help Solve Your Back Pain at Gramercy Pain Center
Management of the back pain depends on its etiology. Depending on the cause of your back pain, we may be offering you any of the following pain treatment option:
Implanted nerve stimulators
We may also be suggesting you to go through physical therapy sessions where a physical therapist will teach you exercises for better flexibility, strengthening the back and abdominal muscles, and improving poor posture. These can help avoid exacerbating the pain while maintaining an active lifestyle.
FAQs About Back Pain and Management
Q: Who gets back pain?
A: Anyone can get back pain, but several factors may increase the risk and vulnerability of an individual to getting back pain. These risk factors include the following:
Heredity - Genetics may also predispose a person to develop diseases that can manifest as back pain.
Fitness level of an individual - Individuals with sedentary lifestyles are prone to back pain because their unused muscles of the back and stomach are unable to properly hold the weight of the spine.
Age - Back pain becomes more common as a person ages, typically starting at around age 30 to 40.
Weight gain - Poor dietary habits like eating foods with high calories and fat leads to weight gain and obesity, which can put an additional weight and stress at the back.
Job-related - Weightlifters or anyone who works in a job that requires them to lift heavy objects or push or pull them can lead to back injuries especially if they do it improperly. Desk jobs may also contribute to back pain, especially if a person sits all day with a poor posture.
Psychological conditions - Patients with anxiety and depression are more prone to back pain.
Smoking - Coughing brought by smoking may lead to herniated disks. Blood flow is also impaired due to smoking, making an individual more vulnerable to osteoporosis.
Q: What’s the prognosis for back pain patients?
A: Prognosis of back pain patients heavily relies on the underlying cause of the back pain. For example, pain caused by cancer has a different prognosis than pain caused by muscle strain. Children and adults also have varying prognosis.
Q: What are the possible complications?
A: Complications of back pain also heavily relies on the underlying cause of the back pain. These may be measured physically and socially. Physically, complications may be chronic pain, deformity, and problems in urinating and passing stools. Social impact, on the other hand, is measured on the degree of the severity of disability, decreased income, and increased absenteeism.
Q: Are there any alternative options for upper back pain treatment?
A: Complementary and alternative medicine offers the potential therapeutic benefit of improving the symptoms of back pain. These alternative treatment options include chiropractic care, acupuncture, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), massage, and yoga.
Q: How can I prevent back pain from occurring again?
A: Lifestyle changes can help prevent back pain from occurring again. These include the following:
exercising regularly to strengthen the back and abdominal muscles and to reduce excess weight;
eating a balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D which are known to help in bone health; observing a good posture while sitting and standing; and
lifting with the legs and abdominal muscles when lifting can’t be avoided.
Ease Your Back Pain Away at Gramercy Pain Center
Back pain may be your body’s way of telling you of a medical condition that you might need to address as soon as possible. At Gramercy Pain Center, our team of professionals including a pain doctor and spine specialist is here to help you know the underlying cause and treatment options for your back pain. Contact us today and visit our pain clinic to solve your back problems in no time.