Back pain is one of the more common conditions that we see in patients who come to our clinic. It can often be tricky to identify the root of back pain, and potential causes are plentiful. Back pain is one of the most common reasons for decreased workplace productivity and workers’ compensation claims. It’s also a highly common cause for government disability in the U.S.
This condition is usually categorized in one of two ways. Acute back pain refers to pain that has been present for less than a few weeks and goes away on its own with minimal impacts to functionality. Chronic back pain is characterized by pain that continues for more than 12 weeks at a time.
Regardless of the type of back pain you may be experiencing, it’s important to be seen by a qualified medical professional. They can determine the cause of your back pain and treat your symptoms for improved quality of life.
Who Is More Likely to Develop Back Pain?
Back pain can affect just about anyone, but there are several factors that can increase a person’s chances of developing back pain, including:
- Physical activity level — People who don’t get as much daily physical activity as they should are more likely to have underdeveloped and unsupported back muscles. This can lead to future or recurring back problems.
- Age — Certain conditions that may cause back pain, like degenerative disc disease, are more likely to occur in older adults.
- Genetics — Some back conditions may be genetic, and could be inherited.
- Body weight — Having excess weight on the body places stress on the body’s joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles. If you’re overweight, you may be more vulnerable to developing back problems.
- Occupation — Occupations that require constant exertion and repetitive motions are another factor that puts people at risk of developing back pain.
What Causes Back Pain?
To gain a clearer understanding of back pain, it’s important to understand that there are numerous potential causes. The type of treatment your physical therapist will want to provide for your pain will depend on their evaluation of its cause. Some of the most common causes of back pain are:
- Degenerative disc disease — Degenerative disc disease is a condition in which the discs between the vertebrae begin to thin and deteriorate. It’s usually related to age, and is more common in older adults.
- Pinched or compressed nerve — A pinched or compressed nerve can occur just about anywhere in the body. When a nerve becomes compressed by a bone or tissue, it can cause a person to experience pain, tingling or numbness.
- Muscle strain — When the muscles in or around the back become strained, whether from injury or repetitive use, an affected person can experience significant pain and limited mobility.
These are just a few of several different conditions that could cause or contribute to back pain. You can work with a physical therapist to treat your back pain and help prevent it from recurring in the future.
Treatment for Back Pain
There are several kinds of treatment available for those who experience back pain, but their efficacy can vary. Take a look at some of the options listed below, to determine which may work best for you:
- Anti-inflammatory medication — Anti-inflammatory medications may be helpful for short periods of time. They’re designed to reduce both inflammation and pain, but their effects are limited. They usually only last for a few hours at a time and are usually not an effective long-term solution.
- Exercise — Building the core muscles in your body can help to better support your upper body weight and reduce strain on the spine.
- Rest — Rest may be a helpful method for dealing with back pain, depending on the cause of your pain. If you’re dealing with a muscle strain or repetitive use injury, allowing your body time to heal could work wonders.
- Spinal decompression — Spinal decompression is a technique that is often used in physical therapy to relieve tension and pressure in the back. If you’re receiving treatment for back pain from a physical therapist, this may be used to help manage your symptoms.
Physical therapy offers other treatment options that may work for you. Physical therapists are specialists in minimizing pain while building strength in your body to protect you from future injury and pain. All you need to do to get started is call a clinic near you and schedule the soonest appointment — no referral necessary.