One of the most common medical complaints in the United States, back pain affects a diverse demographic of patients and can have a number of different causes. The right treatment may depend on the cause of pain, severity, the patient’s age, and many other factors.
About Back Pain
The spinal column is a large and complex structure containing an interconnected network of bones, nerves, ligaments, and tendons – making it extremely susceptible to pain if a part of the structure is damaged. Most back pain can be rooted in problems related to repetitive motion of the parts of the spine, typically caused by improper lifting or from a muscle strain. Back pain can have more serious causes, however, and it can also be a symptom of a larger medical problem.
Though pain can originate from the neck, upper back, middle back, lower back, or tailbone area, most back pain sufferers experience pain in the lower back (lumbar) region.
Causes of Back Pain
Back pain has a wide range of potential causes, and diagnostic tests in combination with a review of the patient’s medical (including family) history plus a physical examination can help determine the source of pain. Some of the most common causes of back pain include:
- Spinal stenosis. An abnormal narrowing of the spinal canal, leaving the spinal cord very little space and causing pain. The condition can also cause numbness, a pins-and-needles sensation, and minimized motor control.
- Arthritis. Osteoarthritis, or the gradual loss of cushioning synovial fluid in the joints, can cause chronic back pain when it occurs in the bones of the spinal column. Arthritis can also lead to spinal stenosis.
- Sciatica. The sciatic nerves, which run through the legs, can sometimes become compressed or irritated (the lumbar nerves of the lower back can also be affected). The condition is often caused by a misaligned spine, bulging discs, or herniated discs.
- Herniated disc syndrome. Also known as a “slipped disc,” a herniated disc occurs when the sensitive inside layer of one of the cushioning discs between the vertebrae becomes exposed. Herniated discs are typically caused by poor lifting or sports injuries, and the pain can be anywhere from mild to very severe.
- Facet arthritis. The spinal vertebrae contain small joints (called facet joints) in between them that stabilize the spine and facilitate motion. If parts of these joints become injured or inflamed, it can cause severe pain and can even lead to spinal stenosis.
- Previous back surgery. Sometimes back pain persists after an unsuccessful spinal surgery. Patients with limited joint mobility, herniated discs, or spinal stenosis are more likely to experience recurring pain after back surgery.
There are a number of different options for treating back pain. If conservative treatments like physical therapy, over-the-counter medications, and lifestyle changes are unsuccessful, Elite Pain Management offers a wide range of safe and effective treatment options. We specialize in:
- Epidural steroid injections. By injecting a safe and effective steroid medication into the epidural space, which surrounds and cushions the spinal cord and nerves, inflammation and pain can be controlled. Epidural steroid injections are a good treatment option for patients with spinal stenosis, disc herniations, joint cysts, and spondylolisthesis (or “slipped vertebrae”).
- Facet joint injections. When the facet joints of the spine cause pain due to injury or arthritis, steroid injection treatments to the back can alleviate pain. This treatment is excellent for improving mobility as well as making physical therapy more tolerable.
- Radiofrequency ablation. Also known as rhizotomy, this procedure uses heat to disable sensitive nerves in the spine. The procedure is minimally invasive and is often used to treat degenerative disc disease and facet joint problems.
- Medial branch nerve blocks. The medial branch nerves, which branch out from the facet joints, may not respond to facet joint injections. A medial branch nerve block is an excellent option for long-term pain relief, especially when arthritis of the spine interferes with the physician’s ability to perform facet joint injections.