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It would interest you to know that back pain is one of the most common complaints in doctors’ offices. Research suggests that 8% of the adult American population experiences chronic back pain at some point in their life. Back pain is extremely common and is among the major reasons why people miss work. It presents itself in various symptoms, from a tingling sensation to a stabbing pain while standing, stretching exercises, or bending.
Back pain ranges from a dull ache to sharp pain that affects other parts of the body, such as one or both legs. In most cases, back pain disappears in a few days or a few weeks.
Back pain can be caused by various factors, most of which are mechanical. However, serious medical problems or infections can cause back pain too. The most common back pain causes include:
Medical conditions such as arthritis
What Is “Serious Back Pain”?
Back pain can be acute, lasting for a few days or weeks, or chronic, lasting for more than 12 weeks. Although the symptoms differentiating acute and chronic back pain may be minor, it is likely to be chronic if you experience severe back pain that persists and does not respond to pain relief medication. This may be a sign of an underlying problem, and it is recommended that you see a doctor as soon as possible.
Lower Back Pain
This is a common type of back pain that occurs in the lower region of the spine. Common causes of lower back pain according to the lower pain fact sheet include the following:
Injuries - For example, sporting or car accident injuries
Degenerative problems such as spondylosis
Congenital issues such as skeletal irregularities
How to Tell If Back Pain Is Muscle or Spine-Related
Most people have no idea whether the back pain they are experiencing is just pain in the muscles or spine pain. Sometimes, even diagnosing what and where exactly the problem is difficult for physical therapists. This is because the back is made up of a complex structural system, and figuring precisely which is hurting or the underlying cause of pain is difficult without the help of a doctor or a qualified physical therapist.
There are a few differences between muscle and spine pain. For instance, muscle pain is usually on one spot or region, while with the spinal cord, the pain usually is sharp and radiates to other parts of the body, such as the legs. Also, with pain in the muscle, you may feel more pain while moving and less pain while still. Muscle relaxants may help relieve muscle-related problems that may be causing neck pain and back pain.
7 Signs Your Back Pain Is Serious or Chronic
Back pain is common but may turn from mild to chronic, indicating a severe problem or an underlying medical condition. You ought to get immediate medical attention if you notice any of the following:
Chronic pain accompanied by persistent fever may be a sign of an infection. If you have problems with bladder function or bowel control along with the fever, the epidural space may be infected. Other infections that could cause back pain are kidney stones, pelvic inflammatory diseases, and urinary tract infections.
Feeling numb when experiencing a backache is fairly common. It may be caused by conditions such as neuropathy, a pinched nerve, and spondylolisthesis. Spinal fractures caused by forceful impacts from sports injuries falls from heights, and motor vehicle accidents can also cause back pain and numbness on one or both legs.
Pain that worsens at night
When experiencing back pain, it is normal for pain degrees to vary with time. If you notice a pattern where you experience severe pain at night or acute low back pain, it could indicate a vertebral disk problem or a tumor.
With proper self-care, most back pain cases improve or disappear within a few days or last not more than a few weeks. If you experience chronic back pain that lasts beyond this time and does not respond to over-the-counter medication, it is considered chronic back pain. It requires the intervention of a physical therapist.
Weakness in the legs
If you experience weakness in your legs while having back pain, it could be a sign of sciatica. It is caused by spinal compression, back injuries such as fractures, arthritis, and herniated discs. A doctor may recommend treatments such as steroid injections, physical therapy, and in severe cases, surgery.
Pain that extends to the feet
This may be a sign of lumbar spinal canal stenosis, narrowing the space between your lower spine and the legs. With age, this space shrinks, thus causing the squeezing of the nerves that go through it.
You may not have incontinence occurring with back pain. Although uncommon, incontinence paired with back pain may occur either due to related causes or otherwise. However, they may indicate serious back problems such as CES or spinal stenosis.
7 Sensations That May Indicate a Medical Emergency
Although it is unlikely that you get taken to the ER due to back pain, doctors may spot signs of an underlying condition and the possibility of such conditions becoming severe. To confront associated risks, actions need to be taken fast.
The following symptoms may be a sign of a medical emergency:
Sudden limb weakness - If you experience sudden weakness in arms and legs paired with back pain may be indicative of squeezed nerves or a stroke.
Chills and Fever - Extreme back pain coupled with fever and chills may be a sign of a spinal cord infection. If not treated quickly, an infection like this may cause paralysis.
Foot drop - This occurs when you experience difficulty in lifting your foot off the ground. It could be a sign of a serious condition such as nerve compression.
Back pain occurring with known risk factors - Severe back pain coupled with risk factors such as a weak immune system or osteoporosis is taken seriously since there are possibilities of problems such as infections or bulging disks, or a fracture.
What Can Cause Lower Back Pain in a Woman
There are certain back pain conditions that women are more susceptible to developing, such as back pain related to post-menopausal age. Some of the causes of back pain in female patients include:
Unexplained weight loss
Some at-home remedies for back pain treatment include hot and cold compresses, stretching, gentle exercise, applying pain relief cream, making workstation changes, and managing stress.
What Will They Do in the Emergency Room for Severe Back Pain?
First, the medics will examine the patient to identify any clinical conditions caused by neurological disorders or systemic diseases. The physician will then start initial treatment and monitor any changes. They may also prescribe medication to control the symptoms in the short term and offer a referral for further evaluation and guidance.
Often, adopting seemingly minor changes in your life makes the back pain diminish significantly. However, if you are experiencing lingering back pain without any improvement, visit a doctor as soon as possible. Do not delay the care your body needs.