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The second most common reason that Americans visit a doctor is back pain, with up to 85% of people experiencing significant back pain sometime during their lives. It’s difficult to perform your daily activities well when you’re having back trouble. Your back is comprised of a complex mix of vertebrae, discs, muscles, ligaments and tendons, making the area susceptible to injury or painful conditions. Your mobility, balance and strength are all impacted when you have back pain.
Acute back pain
Acute back pain is sharp pain that usually appears suddenly. It is described by patients as severe and sometimes disabling. Often, sudden acute back pain results from strains (overstretched muscles) or sprains (overstretched ligaments). The onset of severe pain may occur immediately following an injury, or it can gradually become worse over the next several hours.
Chronic back pain
Chronic back pain is more long-lasting, typically continuing for 12 weeks or more. Chronic pain is often described by patients as aching, burning, or deep pain. It commonly creeps up over time with age and ongoing use of the back just through daily activities. Chronic pain may be linked to a specific area of the spine, such as a disc, joint or ligament, that has been damaged and is no longer functioning in the way it should. This is referred to as mechanical pain. Some conditions that can cause mechanical pain include herniated discs, degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, facet joint degeneration, or spondylolisthesis.
Causes of back pain
In dealing with back pain, it is important to identify the root cause of discomfort. Scheduling an appointment with a physician such as Dr. Fischer at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City is a great way to determine what is making you uncomfortable, so that you can get on the road to recovery. It is especially important to see a doctor if your back pain results from trauma to the spine such as from an auto accident or fall. Severe pain, numbness, difficulty moving your back or extremities, or bladder control impairment are all reasons to see a doctor immediately. In addition to strains or sprains, some causes of back pain include fractures, tumors, infection, inflammatory disorders, or developmental disorders like scoliosis or kyphosis.
Treatment for back pain
Treatment can vary depending on whether the pain is diagnosed as acute or chronic. Acute back pain often improves with time and short-term treatment like physical therapy or steroid injections, in addition to icing techniques, rest, or pain management with medications. Usually within 2 to 6 weeks, acute back pain can be remedied through these types of conservative treatments if there are no complicating underlying medical conditions. If these methods are unsuccessful, it’s possible that surgery will be recommended in severe cases. Conservative methods may also be advised for chronic back pain, but this type of pain tends to respond less successfully and can require an extensive period of time to feel improvements. Dr. Fischer can recommend other treatments for chronic back pain that may provide faster, more effective results that will allow you to return to your normal activities pain-free. Contact Dr. Fischer to schedule an appointment.