Will your back pain just go away?

February 20, 2018 | by Nina Lundberg, MD
Categories: Healthy Driven Life

Back pain is an extremely common complaint for adults. Really, who hasn’t experienced it?

The older you are, the more likely you are to have back pain.

There are a number of causes, as listed by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons:

  • Over-activity. One of the more common causes of low back pain is muscle soreness from over-activity. Muscles and ligament fibers can be overstretched or injured. This is often brought about by that first softball or golf game of the season, or too much yard work or snow shoveling in one day.
  • Disk injury. Some people develop low back pain that does not go away within days. This may mean there is an injury to a disk.
  • Disk degeneration. With age, intervertebral disks begin to wear away and shrink. In some cases, they may collapse completely and cause the joints in the vertebrae to rub against one another, causing pain and stiffness.
  • Degenerative spondylolisthesis. Changes from aging and general wear and tear make it hard for your joints and ligaments to keep your spine in the proper position. The vertebrae move more than they should, and one vertebra can slide forward on top of another. If too much slippage occurs, the bones may begin to press on the spinal nerves.
  • Spinal stenosis. Spinal stenosis occurs when the space around the spinal cord narrows and puts pressure on the cord and spinal nerves.
  • Scoliosis. This is an abnormal curve of the spine that may develop in children, most often during their teenage years. It also may develop in older patients who have arthritis. This spinal deformity may cause back pain and possibly leg symptoms, if pressure on the nerves is involved.

Some back pain is short-term and does go away on its own. Other pain is chronic, and needs some intervention. As the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases reports, there are a variety of treatment options for back pain.

Acetaminophen, aspirin or ibuprofen, along with gentle movement, may do the trick while you wait out short-term back pain. Certain exercises and stretches, heat or cold packs and medication can help chronic pain.

In some cases, surgery could be needed to relieve pain. It’s important to see a doctor if you have chronic back pain, especially if you experience any of these symptoms (from the NIAMS):

  • Numbness or tingling
  • Severe back pain that does not improve with rest
  • Back pain after a fall or an injury
  • Back pain plus any of these problems:
    - Trouble urinating
    - Weakness
    - Numbness in your legs
    - Fever
    - Weight loss when not on a diet

Find the right primary care doctor for you

Living with an aching back or a painful ankle injury is difficult — but you have options to feel like yourself again. Learn more about the Edward-Elmhurst Orthopedic Center.

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