Back pain (also known as “dorsopathy”) is pain felt in the human back that may come from the muscles, nerves, bones, joints or other structures in the spine. The pain may be constant or intermittent, stay in one place or refer or radiate to other areas. It may be a dull ache, or a sharp or piercing or burning sensation. The pain may be felt in the neck (and might radiate into the arm and hand), in the upper back, or in the low back (and might radiate into the leg or foot), and may include weakness or numbness.
Back pain is one of humanity’s most frequent complaints. In the U.S., acute low back pain (also called lumbago) is the fifth most common reason for all physician visits. About nine out of ten adults experience back pain at some point in their life, and five out of ten working adults have back pain every year.
The spine is a complex interconnecting network of nerves, joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments, and all are capable of producing pain. Large nerves that originate in the spine and go to the legs and arms can make pain radiate to the extremities.
While it is rare, back pain can be a sign of a serious medical problem:
Typical warning signs of a potentially life-threatening problem are bowel and/or bladder incontinence or progressive weakness in the legs. Patients with these symptoms should seek immediate medical care.
Severe back pain (such as pain that is bad enough to interrupt sleep) that occurrs with other signs of severe illness (e.g. fever, weight loss) may also indicate a serious underlying medical condition, such as cancer.
Back pain that occurs after a trauma, such as a car accident or fall, should also be promptly evaluated by a medical professional to check for a fracture or other injury.
Back pain in individuals with medical conditions that put them at high risk for a fracture, such as osteoporosis or multiple myeloma, also warrants prompt medical attention.
In general, however, back pain is not usually a sign of a serious medical condition. The vast majority of episodes of back pain are benign, self limiting and non-progressive. Most back pain syndromes are due to inflammation, especially in the acute phase, which typically lasts for two weeks to three months.
The management goals when treating back pain are to achieve maximal reduction in pain intensity as rapidly as possible; to restore function; to help the patient cope with residual pain; to assess for side effects of therapy; and to facilitate the patient’s passage through the legal and socioeconomic impediments to recovery.
Generally, some form of consistent stretching and exercise is believed to be an essential component of most back treatment programs. Bed rest is rarely recommended, and when necessary is usually limited to one or two days. In addition, most people will benefit from assessing any ergonomic or postural factors that may contribute to their back pain, such as improper lifting technique, poor posture, or poor support from their bed or office chair, etc.
Physical therapy and exercise, including stretching and strengthening (with specific focus on the muscles which support the spine), often learned with the help of a health professional, such as a physical therapist.
Dr. Rosenberg specializes in treating specific musculoskeletal problems or sports injuries, and may combine chiropractic with manipulation of the extremities, physiotherapy, nutrition, or exercises to increase spinal strength or improve overall health.
Call to make an appointment today:
Dr. Erik Rosenberg, D.C. (858) 279-2121