Back pain can be debilitating. Therefore, it is important that you get medical help, either from chiropractor or physical therapist to treat the pain and find the needed relief. Back pain includes pain in the lower, middle, or upper back, or lower back pain with sciatica. The pain results from muscular and nerve problems, degenerative disc disease, or arthritis. While medications and pain relievers ameliorate the symptoms, physical therapy, and chiropractic care assist in relieving the discomfort naturally.
What Causes Back Injuries?
Millions of people in the US experience ongoing problems with their back. In fact, back pain is the leading disability in younger people, or patients below 45 years old. Many causes can lead to back injuries.
1. Spine-related Difficulties
Sometimes back pain results from spine difficulties. These problems can occur in the spinal muscles and joints, and the discs and nerves. In turn, you may experience the following:
- Herniated or slipped discs. These discs are located between the joints and can become herniated because of wear-and-tear. The pain resonates in the lower back or down the hip because of a compression of the nerves located at these sites.
- Bulging discs. Discs project outward but do not cause the pain associated with a herniated disc. However, you may feel a bulging disc compressing a nerve root.
- Degenerative disc disease. Because the discs in the spinal column serve a “shock absorbers,” any degeneration can cause the bones to rub together. This condition is often experienced by older people.
2. Inflammation of the Sacroiliac Joint
This joint is situated between the spine and pelvis. While it does not move a lot, it moves the weight of the upper body to the lower body. Wearing of the cartilage may happen as the result of infection, arthritis, or pregnancy.
3. Spinal Stenosis
This condition leads to a narrowing of the spinal canal. In turn, additional pressure is placed on the nerves and spine. Many patients complain that their shoulders and legs feel numb. People over the age of 60 often experience the condition.
This condition occurs when a spinal bone slips out of place, usually in the lower back. Arthritis is the degenerative form of this condition. Spondylolisthesis weakens the alignment of the spine and can trigger a disc to move over a vertebra.
5. Accidents and Injuries
An accident in a car or sprains, fractures, or strains cause back pain as well. If you are injured in an accident, never delay treatment. The sooner you are treated, the better the prognosis.
6. Spinal Fractures
If you have osteoporosis, it can fracture your back. You can also receive a fracture if you are struck in the back or if you fall down.
7. Strains and Sprains
Injuries to the muscles, ligaments, and tendons that support the spinal column can lead to back pain. Often, these injuries develop after a patient lifts something the wrong way. Other reasons for strains and sprains include car accidents or sports-related injuries.
8. Lifestyle Practices
Back pain can be brought on by everyday practices, such as overeating, slouching over your desk, lifting heavy items, smoking, or even wearing high heels. People who do not get enough exercise quite often suffer back pain as well.
You can also experience back pain from emotional events. Stress can trigger muscle tension in the back as well as symptoms, such as anxiety and depression. When you are under severe stress, the pain frequently worsens. That is why it is essential that you learn to relax.
Symptoms of Back Injuries
Back injury symptoms depend on the site of the back pain. Because people suffer pain in the lower, middle, and upper back, the pain can vary. However, the general symptoms include the following:
- Aching and Stiffness – Persistent stiffness or aches along the spinal column, or from the base of the neck to the hips can debilitate some patients.
- A Sharp Localized Pain in the Upper Back or lower Back – This pain normally occurs after lifting a heavy object or engaging in a strenuous exercise. Pain in the upper back may also indicate that the patient is suffering a heart attack or similar life-threatening condition.
- A Chronic Pain in the Middle or Lower back – This pain usually develops after standing or sitting for a long time.
- Pain that Radiates between the Lower Back and Buttock and Down the Back of the Thigh into the Calf – This pain often results from a compressed nerve vertebral misalignment.
- Problems with Standing Up Straight without Feeling Pain – These problems frequently surface when a patient lifts a heavy object and twists or turns.
Physical Therapy For Compression Fractures
- A vertebral compression fracture occurs when part of an individual bone of the spine (vertebra) becomes compressed. Vertebral compression fractures can be caused by osteoporosis, trauma, and diseases affecting bone. The bones of the spine have two main sections. The vertebral arch is a ring-shaped section that forms the roof of the spinal canal and protects the spinal cord. You can feel the spinous process, a projection from this arch when you press on the skin in the middle of your back. The vertebral body is the cylindrically shaped portion of the vertebral one that lies in front and provides the majority of structural support. In a compression fracture, the vertebral body collapses. Sometimes, more than one vertebra fractures, a condition called multiple compression fractures. Multiple compression fractures can lead to kyphosis, a spinal deformity when the upper back curves forward, creating the appearance of a hunchback. In some cases, a person who experiences multiple compression fractures may notice a loss of height.
- Injury severe enough to cause a vertebra to break can occur with a fall from a tall height in which the person lands on his or her feet or buttocks. It can also occur in a person involved in a car accident. Usually the trauma necessary to break the bones of the spine is quite substantial. In certain circumstances, such as in elderly people and in people with cancer or who have osteoporosis, these same bones can be fragile and can break with little or no force. The vertebrae most commonly broken are those in the lower back, but they may break in any portion of the spine.
- Osteoporosis is a disease of bone in which bone density is reduced, which may increase the chance that a person could sustain a vertebral compression fracture with little or no trauma. Osteoporosis most commonly occurs in women who have completed menopause, but it can also occur in elderly men and in people who have had long-term use of a steroid medication such as prednisone.
- Pathologic fracture is a fracture occurring in the vertebra due to the preexisting disease at the fracture site. Most commonly, this type of break is from cancer in the bone, which has often traveled from other sites in the body (called metastasis), such as from the prostate, breast, or lungs. Pathologic fracture can also occur with other diseases, such as Paget’s disease of bone and infection of the bone (osteomyelitis).
Compression fractures may or may not cause symptoms. If compression fractures cause symptoms these may include; pain in back, arms, or legs, numbness and/or weakness in arms or legs (if the fracture has affected the spinal cord and/or surrounding nerves in the spine), and over an extended period some patients may notice a loss of height. A compression fracture that occurs suddenly can be very painful, but a compression fracture that occurs gradually may cause pain only gradually. Losing control (incontinence) of urine or stool or inability to urinate (urinary retention) are also possible symptoms and if these are present, the fracture may be pushing on the spinal cord itself.
A physical therapist for compressions fractures should evaluate back pain in certain situations and these include; in any elderly person, in a person with cancer, in anyone whose pain is exactly the same at rest as it is during activity, if pain while sleeping is worse than when awake, and in a child under 12 years of age. The provider may order X-rays, MRI of the spine, and/or a CT scan.
For the most part, nonoperative treatments are recommended for compression fracture. These treatments include pain medications, rest, ice, heat, and modified physical activity that includes a stretching and strengthening program directed by a physical therapist.
Treatment Options for Back Injuries
Back pain may be sudden, mild, constant, or debilitating. Therefore, the care that is recommended may consist of a combination of treatments. The following therapies are used for treating back pain.
1. Over-the-counter and prescription pain relievers are often recommended for alleviating back pain and discomfort. The strength of the medicine depends on the nature of the pain and any resulting side effects. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be recommended or prescription pain relievers, such as the following:
- Lidocaine patches
2. Chiropractic care frequently is advised for treatments of the lower back. The goal of using this method is to realign the spine so pain becomes less of a problem. Chiropractic techniques relieve pressure and assist in developing a better posture.
3. Physical therapy focuses on the prevention of further disabilities or pain. PT is used to relieve the pain, encourage healing, and restore movement and function in the back.