Back pain

What is back pain?

Back pain consists of discomfort that may or may not be continuous over time and may be located from the upper lumbar region to the legs. Back pain is the second most common complaint among people, second only to the common cold.

In fact, it is estimated that around eight out of every ten people will suffer from it during their lifetime, a fact that makes its prevalence clear. Back pain is associated with many diseases that can lead to serious problems.

Lumbago or low back pain is the most frequent pathology in back pain.

Prognosis of back pain

Back pain is a very frequent problem among people, since it is estimated that 80% of the population will suffer from it at some time in their lives. This pain is associated with more than 60 diseases, some of which can lead to serious problems such as disabilities.

Lumbago is the most frequent problem when talking about back pain, but in this case the prognosis is quite good, since half of those who suffer from this problem improve their situation within two weeks and nine out of ten sufferers completely resolve this type of episode in eight or nine weeks.

Symptoms of back pain

The symptomatology of back pain can manifest itself in different ways, while its intensity can vary from mild to intense, and depending on its level, it can severely affect the mobility of the person who suffers it.

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The most common signs of back pain are the following:

  • Throbbing pain
  • Muscle discomfort
  • Pain that radiates down the leg
  • Burning
  • Tingling
  • Intense pain

In turn, these signs may be accompanied by the combination of any of the symptoms shown below:

  • Localized area that responds with pain to touch.
  • Muscle spasms
  • Pain that goes through the groin but does not go below the knee
  • Difficulty moving
  • Difficulty standing up

Medical tests for back pain

Diagnosing a back pain problem is not always a quick process, since the specialist must gradually rule out possible causes and gradually perform tests to confirm the diagnosis.

When diagnosing the problem, the specialist will ask the patient some questions about how the pain started, etc. Subsequently, physical and neurological examinations will be performed.

In the physical examination, the physician will observe the patient’s posture, as well as his or her physical condition, range of motion and which movements are causing the pain. In the neurological examination, reflexes, muscle strength and the extent of pain will be evaluated.

In turn, various medical tests can also be done, such as X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, blood tests, bone scintigraphy, electromyography to study the nerves…

Bone studies, discograms and myelograms, can also be performed to confirm the condition of the bones, discs and spinal cord respectively.

Back pain is a frequent problem that will affect eight out of every ten people throughout their lives.

What are the causes of back pain?

The onset of back pain can have several causes. Low back pain may appear due to the presence of muscle spasms; a herniated disc or a fracture in the spinal cord may be the cause of low back pain. On the other hand, sciatica is another of the most common pain that occurs in the lower back and runs along the sciatic nerve through the buttock.

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For the most part, cervicalgia occurs after muscle inflammation or joint dysfunction. Inflammation of the muscles can be caused by weakness, overexertion, sports injuries or accidents.

Another frequent cause of pain is osteoarthritis, as well as bone irregularities or possible anomalies of the back, such as curvature of the spine or scoliosis.

At the same time, it should be noted that almost any daily activity can trigger back pain, either suddenly or over time.

Some of the activities that cause back pain are:

  • Bending over abruptly.
  • Carrying, lifting, pushing or pulling an object incorrectly.
  • Sitting in a bad posture
  • Standing or bending down for long periods of time
  • Turning
  • Stretching for too long

Can back pain be prevented?

A large proportion of people will suffer from back pain throughout their lives, so preventing back pain is not always possible. In fact, as we age, the spine itself wears down. However, there are some guidelines to try to avoid it

  • Exercise
  • Eat a healthy and balanced diet
  • Exercise regularly
  • Avoid smoking
  • Maintain correct posture
  • Supporting the back when sitting

Treatment for back pain

Most back problems improve soon after starting treatment. The use of ice and heat, depending on what the specialist recommends may be sufficient.

In fact, in cases of back pain, rest is not recommended, but rather that the patient should try to maintain his or her daily activity as long as he or she can tolerate the pain.

Physiotherapy is essential for the treatment of back pain. The specialist can use different treatments such as muscle relaxation techniques or exercises to strengthen the musculature, as well as heat, cold, ultrasound, electrical stimulation….

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On occasions, the only possible treatment is surgery, which is normally reserved for cases in which there is stenosis in the spinal column or a herniated disc that has not responded to other therapies.

Which specialist treats back pain?

There are several specialists who can treat back pain. For example, the traumatologist, who is a bone specialist, and the rheumatologist, a joint specialist. In terms of treatment, pain management specialists such as physical rehabilitators, physiotherapists, osteopaths, ozone therapists, acupuncturists can be of great help.