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Identifying Back Pain

Identifying Back Pain

man in gym experiencing back pain

It’s no secret that back pain can be extremely debilitating and reduce your quality of life. Sometimes, the pain may actually be radiating from other parts of your body that have been injured or damaged.

Here are ways to identify different types of back pain, along with signs you need back surgery. If you are suffering from back pain, University Orthopaedic Associates (UOA) specializes in spine procedures and pain management that can help you find relief.

Types of Back Pain

Back pain can stem from several root causes. Common sources of back pain include:

  • Muscle or ligament strain. A strain may occur after a sudden awkward movement or repeated heavy lifting.
  • Bulging or ruptured discs. Discs can rupture or bulge and press on nearby nerves.
  • Arthritis. Arthritis in the spine may cause back pain.
  • Osteoporosis. Broken, porous and brittle bones may trigger back pain.
  • Ankylosing spondylitis. This inflammatory condition can cause bones in the spine to fuse together and cause pain and stiffness.
  • Sacroiliitis. Inflammation of the sacroiliac joints, located where the pelvis meets the lower spine, may cause lower back pain which could radiate down through the buttocks and legs.

Symptoms and Severity of Back Pain

Pain can be defined as acute, subacute or chronic.

Acute pain lasts under four weeks, subacute pain lasts four to 12 weeks and chronic pain lasts longer than 12 weeks.

Common symptoms of back pain include:

  • Pain that gets worse when bending or lifting
  • Pain that gets worse when standing, sitting or resting
  • Pain that comes and goes
  • Back stiffness upon waking
  • Back pain that radiates into the legs, hips or buttocks
  • Numbness or weakness in the legs or feet

Non-Surgical Treatment Options

Many cases of back pain can be effectively treated using one or more non-surgical treatments.

Non-surgical treatments include:

  • Physical therapy, which can increase strength and flexibility in the back
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which may reduce pain and inflammation
  • Corticosteroid injections, which can temporarily decrease pain and inflammation
  • Epidural nerve blocks, which are injections that are implanted under the skin to block pain signals from nerve irritation or damage occurring in the spine
  • Radiofrequency ablation, which involves inserting a fine needle to destroy pain from small nerves attaching to small joints in the back
  • Lifestyle changes, such as losing weight or quitting smoking, which can help reduce back strain and inflammation

When Surgery Is Needed

Back surgery may be needed when your condition doesn’t respond to non-surgical treatments. Here are signs you need back surgery:

  • Your back pain is radiating to the arms and legs, which could indicate a herniated disc or bone spur.
  • Your pain hasn’t gone away after a month of conventional or non-surgical treatments.
  • You are experiencing a serious medical emergency, such as a car accident or trauma to the spine.

The Interventional Physiatry and Pain Management department as well as the Spine department at UOA is home to a team of highly experienced and dedicated physicians who can help you manage and reduce your back pain with or without surgery. Contact UOA today at (732) 537-0909 to request an appointment if you need treatment for an orthopaedic injury.