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Most back pain improves with a few weeks of self-care, including over-the-counter pain relievers, ice, heat and taking care not to lift heavy items or work out too vigorously. It also helps to get some mild exercise and movement into your day, rather than lying down and staying still for too long – which can make back pain worse. But if these self-care methods don’t relieve your back pain after a few weeks, you should consult with a back pain specialist to improve your symptoms with medications.
The most common first steps in pain-reducing medications is your doctor’s recommendations of acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others) or naproxen (Aleve). Both of these types of medications are effective at relieving back pain, often within a very short period of time after taking them. Always take these medications as directed by your doctor, because overuse can cause serious side effects.
If over-the-counter medications don’t relieve your back pain issues, including secondary pain such as sore hips from compensating for your stiff or painful back, your doctor may also prescribe a muscle relaxant. While muscle relaxants will often lessen back pain, they can cause side effects like sleepiness and dizziness, so you should take them only when you’re done driving for the day, and when you can relax and let the medication ease your pain. Do not take muscle relaxants when you’re at work or if you have to make important decisions, cook, or conduct any other tasks that require focus. Save them for when you’re truly free of all items on your to-do list, and be sure someone is available to care for your kids and pets. Some people are more sensitive than others to the effects of muscle relaxants, and you may be among those who cannot function safely while on a particular type of back pain medication.
Your doctor may also prescribe to you narcotics, such as codeine or hydrocodone, which should be used only for a short period of time and with close supervision by your doctor. Take these medications only as prescribed.
Interestingly, some back pain patients experience relief for chronic back pain from low doses of certain types of antidepressants — particularly tricyclic antidepressants, such as amitriptyline. You may not feel depressed, or show other signs of depression, but this is among the arsenal of pain-relieving medications that your doctor may consider for you.
Lastly, cortisone injections for back pain are also an option. These anti-inflammatory injections are delivered to the space around your spinal cord (like an epidural is administered during childbirth.) Your doctor might inject cortisone into the facet joints of your vertebrae, decreasing inflammation in those areas that may be the cause of back pain and allowing your spine to regain fuller range of motion and stability. A cortisone injection helps decrease inflammation around the nerve roots, and you might experience back pain relief for up to a few months after your injection.
Ask your doctor about which medications may be ideal to relieve your back pain, and ask for information on possible side effects, as well as – importantly – how long you should take each type of medication suggested or prescribed to relieve your back pain.
There are several different types of back surgery proving successful at resolving patients’ back pain issues, each involving the highest level of surgical technology available today, as well as the skill of a board-certified spinal surgeon. If your spinal specialist advises back surgery, you’ll embark upon a learning process about the different available back surgery procedures – guided by your physician. You always want to get your information directly from your spinal surgeon, since back surgery information online can be outdated or incorrect, and Googling back surgery topics can sometimes cause unnecessary anxiety. The best course of action for researching back surgery procedures is to prepare a list of questions for your surgeon, and request all of the back surgery literature possible that your doctor can provide you with so that you can fully understand what will be done during your surgical procedure.
Overall, back surgery can accomplish several different pain-relieving goals, including removing portions of the bone to widen the narrowed area in your vertebrae, which can cause back pain. Your spinal surgeon may remove the gel-like middle section of a ruptured disc to relieve pressure on pinched nerves in the back. And sometimes, the damage to a disc is so severe, your doctor has to remove the entire disc and then fuse together the remaining discs.
Below is a list of some of the different types of back surgery that may be the customized choice for your back damage or condition:
Since back surgery is a complex procedure, work with your spinal surgeon to explore all your options. Every situation is different and you need to feel secure that you have fully researched which type of back surgery would be best for you, and if back surgery is necessary at all. And of course, your doctor will guide you through all the information you need regarding recovering from back surgery and what you can expect for your post-surgery lifestyle.
If you’re experiencing ongoing or severe back pain, you’re likely wondering if you’ll need back surgery to finally rid yourself of that constant back ache or debilitating back pain. The answer will come once your spinal surgeon assesses your back pain or back injury symptoms, and takes a full medical history, to review your general health level and medical issues. But before you panic, keep in mind that back surgery is generally needed only in a small percentage of back paincases. Most back pain can be resolved by a range of non-surgical options that can keep you off the operating table and have you feeling better soon. Some of these are as the application of ice or heat, anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, and massage. Changing your diet with the goal of losing weight can also help take pressure off the nerves in your back and once the initial discomfort is lessened, exercise can also provide non-surgical relief.
However, when conservative treatments don’t help, back surgery may be your physician’s advice. This is often the case when your doctor is seeking to get you relief from back pain that’s limiting your lifestyle, interrupting your sleep and preventing you from being active and at your best.
Here are the symptoms and conditions that might mean back surgery would be an optimal solution for you:
You may also be diagnosed with a condition that causes back pain and additional progressive nerve compression:
Your spinal surgeon’s primary goal is to eliminate your back pain and to return your quality of life. When a progressive condition is diagnosed through testing and examination, back surgery may certainly move to the forefront of your surgeon’s mind. It is their job to consider your best and personalized options for ridding you of back pain before your current condition deteriorates further.
Hearing “It’s just a back strain” may not be very comforting when you’re experiencing severe back pain. While back strain may sound like a minimal back injury, it can cause you a great deal of discomfort, perhaps sleepless nights, back spasms that can cause severe lower back pain and in some cases, immobility. Many people with back strains go to the emergency room for relief.
Most lower back pain episodes are caused by damage to the muscles and/or ligaments in the lower part of the back. When you have back strain, you may have one or both of the following:
Strain and sprain are often used interchangeably, since the treatment and prognosis for both of these are the same. So one is not worse than the other, although the amount of pain you’re experiencing may make you think that what you have is indeed the worse of the two. Especially since you cannot see inside your back, your imagination may conclude that you have something much worse than a back strain or sprain. Patients experiencing pain can often jump to dramatic conclusions and envision difficult treatments ahead.
It can calm your worries to understand what a back strain is. When the muscles or ligaments in the lower back are strained or torn, the area around the muscles will likely become inflamed. That back inflammation leads to back spasms that can cause your severe back pain and immobility.
“How did this happen to me?” is likely the next question on your mind. Back strains are often the result of a movement or movements that put undue stress on the lower back. Motions like lifting a heavy object, lifting multiple heavy objects (such as with landscaping using large rocks or bricks,) lifting and twisting, a sudden and single twisting motion (like your last golf tee-off of the day,) or a fall are just some of the movements that can cause back strain.
Symptoms of back strain may range from a mild ache to sudden, debilitating pain often localized in the lower back. The pain of a back strain is likely to be located in the low back, and not radiate down your leg (as with sciatica.) Your back may be sore to the touch, pain comes on suddenly and strongly, you may have those muscle spasms in your lower back, and you might find standing or walking to be more uncomfortable than resting.
With a doctor’s care and pain-reducing medications, you may find your back strain’s worst pain subsiding quickly, but with back strain, you may experience a lower level of pain, or flare-ups of pain, for a few weeks to a few months, depending on how severe your back strain is. And how well you rest after being diagnosed. Self-care is essential with back strain, so that those stretched or torn muscles of ligaments can heal well. Most back strains and sprains are much better after 3 to 4 weeks, since the large muscles in your back have a good blood supply, which delivers healing nutrients and proteins to your injury site for healing to take place. You might not be able to see that happening, but as you heal from your back strain, that’s what’s happening beneath the surface.
Back pain is one of the most complex and confounding conditions in medicine. There are several types of back pain, typically classified by their cause, and these pains may have their origins in back muscles, ligaments, in the spine, or even as a result of health problems in other parts of the body.
Muscle strains are the source of many cases of back pain, usually caused by overuse, such as engaging in strenuous activities to which your body is not accustomed. Symptoms of muscle strains include muscle weakness, inflammation, cramping and muscle spasms. These strains can result in severe lower back pain, but the pain remains localized, and does not radiate down to the legs.
Ligaments, which bind bones together, can also cause pain when sprained. Symptoms of ligament sprains are similar to muscle strains, but take longer to heal – between six to eight weeks and several months. If not allowed to heal properly, ligament sprains can give rise to chronic back pain.
Pain due to spinal problems is a common form of back pain. It often results from pressure exerted on spinal nerves – a condition commonly called a pinched nerve – due to degeneration, injury, or illness affecting the spinal column. A pinched nerve causes localized pain similar to a muscle strain, but may also involve other parts of the body. Pinched nerves in the lower, or lumbar region of the spine, can cause burning lower back and leg pain, and also affect the bladder, appendix, large intestine, sex organs, knees and prostate. Simple rest, medications, and physical therapy are among the beneficial non-invasive approaches to alleviate back pain in these cases. Even serious spinal conditions such as spinal stenosis and associated degenerative disc diseases that have condemned generations to sometimes crippling pain and restricted mobility, can today be effectively treated with advanced microsurgical procedures such as laminectomies and other forms of spinal decompression surgery. Spinal fusion back surgery has usually been performed immediately following spinal decompression, in order to stabilize the affected portion of the spine. Though decompression spinal surgery can dramatically alleviate pain and other symptoms of compressed or pinched nerves, the spinal fusion eliminates the independent motion of the fused vertebrae. Today even this limitation has been surmounted. The TOPS™ System from Premia Spine provides a clinically proven superior alternative to spinal fusion that preserves the full, independent motion of each vertebra.
If you’re experiencing back pain, remember that though the condition can have a variety of causes, a qualified physician can offer many effective treatment options.
Back pain affects people of all ages and both genders. But the gender most affected by back pain is men. Men are especially prone to traumatic back pain due to engagement in physical activities at work and play, such as heavy lifting, prolonged sitting, and inconsistent exercise (i.e., the weekend warrior). These activities carry a greater risk of injury to the spine and to the ligaments that support the spine. Accidents, sports injuries, and actions as simple as improperly lifting a heavy object or twisting the back awkwardly when reaching for something can all be responsible for trauma injuries. Even spinal injuries that occur in childhood can manifest in later years, providing a painful reminder of long-ago trauma. The physical stresses and strains on the spine to which men are subjected can also accelerate and exacerbate the onset of spinal conditions such as degenerative disc disease.
If you’re concerned about a back condition that’s causing you pain, remember that the great majority of cases of back pain in men involve muscle trauma or other strains or minor injuries that resolve on their own with rest and proper care. If back pain persists, a qualified medical specialist can identify the problem, and a variety of effective treatment options are likely available. Even serious spinal conditions such as degenerative disc diseases and spinal stenosis can be effectively treated. Spinal decompression surgery, for example, can relieve pressure on spinal nerves, dramatically reducing pain and associated symptoms. And today, patients no longer need to surrender the full range of spinal motion to benefit from decompression spinal surgery. Whereas spinal fusion back surgery was routinely performed in conjunction with decompression spine surgery, now the TOPS™ System alternative enables spinal decompression patients to maintain their full range of spinal motion. Instead of fusing adjacent vertebrae at the point of the decompression surgery, the TOPS System implant allows each vertebra to maintain independent flexion and lateral motion.
Men may be more prone to back pain than other groups, but today a variety of effective treatment options can provide relief for even its most serious forms.