An Orthopedic Specialist’s Guide to Chronic Back Pain

Back pain is a common complaint among our patients. Learn to recognize the symptoms, and seek help from an orthopedic specialist to diagnose and treat your condition.

Whether you’re a workout enthusiast or simply spend a lot of time sitting in an office chair, it’s likely that you’ve dealt with some degree of back pain in your day-to-day life. When pain strikes, it’s essential that you’re equipped to identify the cause of your condition and recognize your symptoms. The orthopedic specialists at New York Bone & Joint are here to keep you informed, and help you develop a comprehensive treatment plan to banish back pain for good.

COMMON CAUSES OF BACK PAIN

Back pain may arise from everyday causes, especially for adults over the age of 35. Slouching in front of a desk is a common culprit, and being overweight is another risk factor.

Many people also experience issues due to prolonged stress or heavy lifting. The repetitive motions and impact of sports can cause back pain, but lack of exercise can also weaken muscles and make them more susceptible to injury.

Pain in the back may be linked to a medical condition that requires a doctor’s diagnosis. Back pain can have anatomic causes, such as scoliosis or weak core muscles. As the body ages, troublesome disc issues are more likely to occur as the soft matter bulges and presses on nerves, causing disc herniation, degenerative disc disease, or spinal stenosis.

Certain chronic issues, such as arthritis, can affect the back as well. Sciatica, nerve compression, kidney disease, or even tumors can be risk factors, and pregnancy often puts additional stress on the back muscles.

SYMPTOMS OF LOWER AND UPPER BACK PAIN

If you’re experiencing lower back or lumbar spinal pain, you may experience:

If you’re experiencing upper back or thoracic spinal pain, you may experience:

THE INITIAL DIAGNOSIS

If you have chronic back pain, it’s important to consult your doctor. Some pain may indicate the need for simple lifestyle changes — better posture, more exercise, or a new mattress, for example. Most of the time, the pain can be traced back to a muscle injury or joint inflammation, which can respond well to more conservative treatments.

Only a doctor can help you determine if your discomfort is more serious. For instance, if you’re experiencing shooting or burning pain down the legs, numbness, or tingling, this may be the sign of a herniated disc or pinched nerve. Your doctor may recommend an MRI to rule out disc herniations and spinal stenosis, along with an EMG and nerve testing to identify any other underlying issues. For more urgent conditions, like a fracture due to direct impact, you should seek immediate medical attention.

SEEKING TREATMENT AND PAIN RELIEF

If you’re experiencing acute but manageable back pain, you can start with conservative treatment methods. For the first 48 hours you should rest, take anti-inflammatory medication, and ice the affected area for 20 minutes at a time. Rest is the most effective treatment for upper back pain, as long as you lie down in a way that doesn’t strain the spine.

If your pain persists, your doctor may suggest physical therapy, or changes like exercising and improving your posture. Exercise can prevent injury by strengthening the back and abdominal muscles, but be sure to warm up, stretch, and gradually increase activity.

Injections are another common treatment for back pain. Options include trigger point injections to relieve painful muscles, anti-inflammatory joint injections, epidural injections for spinal nerves, or nerve blocks. In more serious cases, your doctor may recommend surgery.

No matter the severity of your condition, we at New York Bone & Joint Specialists can help you establish a personalized, long-term regimen to alleviate your pain and address any underlying conditions. Dr. Michael Y. Mizhiritsky, MD is an expert in non-surgical spine treatments, especially for lower back pain, sciatica, pinched nerves, and herniated discs. Don’t suffer through pain or risk exacerbating your condition. Our doctors are here to help you through every step of your recovery.

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