Back pain is a common problem that affects people of all ages. If you don’t take care of yourself, you could end up with a temporary or permanent disability that may make it hard to work or do everyday things.
Back pain can be either acute or chronic. Acute back pain comes on suddenly because of something that happened to you, such as an injury, overuse of a muscle, or picking up something too heavy and straining your back. This type of pain usually lasts anywhere from a few days to a few weeks and goes away on its own with rest.
Chronic back pain, on the other hand, is ongoing. If the pain isn’t going away in your back after 3 to 6 months, and you’ve tried to rest it, this may be a medical condition such as spinal arthritis, degenerating discs, etc. The pain caused by these conditions can be managed through treatments, including chiropractic care.
Common Conditions that Cause Back Pain
You might be hesitant to visit a chiropractor for back pain. But remember, going to see someone earlier rather than later can make it easier to treat with less pain over the long run. Below are some of the most common conditions that are associated with ongoing back pain.
Spinal osteoarthritis, also called spondylosis, refers to the wear-and-tear on the bones (vertebrae) and cartilage (discs) that make up your neck and back. It is a common cause of chronic neck and back pain that typically worsens as a person grows older.
Symptoms vary based on whether the person has been diagnosed with cervical or lumbar spondylosis. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and can develop gradually or occur suddenly. People with spondylosis may experience common symptoms such as:
- Neck pain and stiffness
- Back pain and stiffness
- Muscle weakness
- Pain in the shoulder, arm, or hand
- Pain in the buttock, and down the leg (sciatica)
- Abnormal sensations such as tingling or numbness
The most common cause of spondylosis is aging. Other causes and risk factors can include:
- Abnormal spine movement, such as frequent overuse and strenuous activity
- Genetics (family history of spondylosis
- Living a sedentary lifestyle
- Being obese
- Prolonged sitting
- Prior injury
A bulging disc, also known as a protruding disc, is when a disc in your spine literally bulges outside its usual area. It is considered to be “contained”, meaning the disc remains intact and mucoprotein gel inside has not leaked out.
Bulging discs don’t always cause pain since they generally do not protrude far enough to press on a nerve. When there is pain, however, it is usually felt in the lower back and triggered by actions such as bending, coughing and sneezing.
Common symptoms can include:
- Muscle spasms
- Tingling or pain in the fingers, hands, arms, neck, or shoulders (indicates a bulging disc in the cervical, or neck, area)
- Pain in the feet, thighs, lower spine, and buttocks (indicates a bulging disc in the lumbar area)
- Upper back pain radiating to the stomach or back (indicates a mid-spine bulging disc)
- Bladder incontinence (if the disc is compressing nerves that control the bladder)
- Difficulty walking
- Pain in one leg if the sciatic nerve is affected
The most common cause of a bulging disc is aging. You may find that you were doing something pretty normal when the pain began. That’s because our spines start to degenerate as we age. Here are some other factors that contribute to bulging discs:
- Living a sedentary lifestyle
- Being obese
- Continuous strain from injury or heavy lifting
- Weakened back muscles
- Improper body positioning during sitting, standing, sleeping, or exercising
Herniated discs are often referred to by other names including slipped disc and ruptured disc.
These discs act as cushions between the vertebrae (bones) in your spine. When a disc cracks and the inner fluid leaks out, it has herniated. This is different from a bulging disc because the capsule of fluid actually splits open when it herniates. Most herniated discs occur in the lower back.
The fluid that leaks out causes a lot of irritation and/or compression which causes pain that can be intense. Other herniated disc symptoms include:
- Muscle spasms in the back
- Unexplained weakness when standing or walking
- Numbness, tingling, burning, or weakness in the lower limbs
- Chronic pain in any extremities including the legs, feet, neck, arms, buttocks, hands, and arms
- Pain that is worse at night, after standing or sitting, or with certain movements
Herniated discs are usually caused by normal wear and tear that comes with aging. Over time, the outer ring of your intervertebral disc becomes weakened, allowing the inner disc to slip out of place. Factors that may increase your risk for developing a herniated, slipped, or ruptured discs are about the same as the factors that contribute to a bulging disc and include:
- Sitting for long periods of time
- Being overweight
- Weak back muscles
- Lifting, moving, or twisting with heavy objects using the wrong technique
- Constant pulling, lifting, or straining or the back and spine
- An injury to the spine
- A family history of disc degeneration
- Gender (men are more commonly affected than women)
Degenerative Disc Disease
Degenerative disc disease refers to symptoms of back or neck pain caused by wear-and-tear on a spinal disc. When a back is young and healthy, the discs between the vertebrae act as shock absorbers, allowing the back to stay flexible while resisting forces. As a normal process of aging, the rubbery discs begin to shrink and lose their cushioning properties.
Degenerative disc disease is often indicated by a low-grade, continuous pain around the degenerating disc that occasionally flares up into more severe and sometimes debilitating pain. Other signs that might indicate degenerative disc disease include, especially if it has lasted longer than six weeks include:
- Acute pain that is worse while seated
- Pain that worsens when you bend, lift, or twist your spine
- Pain that improves when you go from sitting or standing to walking or running
- Pain that improves when you switch positions or lie down
In most cases, age is a contributing factor of degenerative disc disease. However, not everyone who ages will develop this painful condition. Common causes of degenerative disc disease include:
- Normal wear and tear from sports and daily activities
- Loss of fluid that causes the center of the disc to dry out
- Trauma or injury that causes swelling or soreness
Pain associated with the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back through the hips and buttocks, and down each leg is called sciatica. Sciatica pain radiates through the sciatic region, and usually affects only one side of the body.
The main symptom of sciatica is pain in the lower back region that runs down one or both legs. This pain can range from severe and constant to mild and infrequent. In addition, some people may experience symptoms such as:
- Pain in the buttocks or leg that becomes worse when sitting
- Constant pain on one side of the buttocks
- Hip pain
- A burning/tingling sensation down one leg
- Leg or foot weakness or numbness
- Intense shooting pain that makes standing difficult
Most cases of sciatica are caused when a bone spur, herniated disc, or muscle spasm, compresses part of the sciatic nerve located in the back.
Lumbar Spinal Stenosis
Lumbar spinal stenosis is a medical condition in which the spinal canal narrows and compresses the nerves at the level of the lumbar vertebrae, causing chronic back pain and pressure. The lumbar spine is the lowest part of the spinal cord and is surrounded by the hips, buttocks, and lower back. Lumbar spinal stenosis is the most common than cervical stenosis and usually develops later in life, affecting people who are over the age of 50.
Some people with lumbar spinal stenosis may not have symptoms. Others may experience:
- Leg pain while standing
- Extreme leg pain while walking that goes away immediately after sitting down
- A tingling and/or numb sensation from the lower back through the buttocks and legs
Spinal stenosis is most commonly caused by wear-and-tear changes in the spine related to osteoarthritis. However, there are other factors that can contribute to developing this condition, which include:
- Bone spurs (overgrowth of bone)
- Herniated discs
- Thickened ligaments in the spinal area
- Spinal injuries
Treatments for Back Pain at the Chiropractor
Chiropractic care can be a very effective option for treating back pain, often times, providing relief without surgery. A growing list of research studies and reviews demonstrate that the services provided by chiropractors are clinically effective, safe, and affordable.
Chiropractic treatments available at Village include: