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3 types of back pain and when to see a doctor

This article is Sponsored by Novocur

It’s not a coincidence that when we encourage people to “grow a backbone” that it’s synonymous with being firm and resolute. Our back is quite literally the support system for our bodies but it’s often the last thing considered when it comes to health and wellbeing. Good posture, deliberate exercise, and intentional lifestyle choices can all lead to a stronger back. But if you’re experiencing back pain, it’s important to re-evaluate your health and know when it’s time to consult a physician.

We’ve compiled three of the most common types of back pain and the triggers that signal when it’s time to see a doctor. 

Acute

It is possible to have too much of a good thing, and that includes exercise. Overexertion from high-intensity workouts can result in back pain and injury. We discussed in a previous article that intense exercise programs can lead to overextension and result in potential short term or long term back pain.

Most people between the ages of 20 to 40 will experience acute back pain in their lifetime according to research from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. Extreme exercise and lower back sprains from lifting weights and high-intensity workouts can result in an injury that leads to back pain. 

Sometimes the damage might not be immediately noticeable. If you’re feeling unusual pain after a particularly hard workout, or injured yourself beyond your average post-exercise muscle fatigue, it may be time to see a doctor to assess the extent of the damage.

If pain flairs when going from sitting to standing or worsens with activity like walking or sitting, it could be a sign of something more serious. 

Chronic Pain

Pain can be qualified as “chronic” when it persists for longer than 12 weeks. While some types of back pain can be self-correcting, an extended period of pain where symptoms don’t get any better or worsen, should be a sign to further assess your health. 

Chronic conditions like scoliosis can also be a root cause of ongoing back pain. Adult onset of scoliosis is mostly due to the gradual deterioration of the spinal joints over time. Patients who have developed excessive curves in their spine may find themselves leaning forward to maintain an upright posture, according to the Scoliosis Research Society. This tension can lead to more stress on your legs and lower back.

Age can be a factor in many health issues. Spinal stenosis may arise in people over the age of 50, resulting in chronic pain. Deteriorative changes in the spine and a narrowing of the spinal canal can occur in both your upper and lower back. According to the Mayo Clinic, a tingling, weakness of numbness in your limbs, pain or cramping in your legs after sitting, or any numbness in the area are symptoms of chronic back pain that could be long lasting. 

If you’re experiencing lower back stiffness, tingling/shooting pain through the legs from nerve damage and muscle fatigue, these are triggers that warrant a check in with a physician. 

Lifestyle

According to the experts at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, most back pain is a result of prolonged sitting, poor posture, and a sedentary lifestyle. Even something as trivial as sneezing, or simply bending over can cause a herniated disk when your back has been exposed to “chronic wear and tear.”

Making the right lifestyle choices like not smoking, and breaking up long periods of sedentary activity can be the precautions you can take to avoid lifestyle-incurred back pain. And it’s not just to avoid physical pain. Research shows that depression is the most direct emotional response to back pain, which can create a whole other level of stress on your physical and emotional wellbeing.

Obesity is another common lifestyle factor that directly affects back pain. As your spine depends on your core strength for support, maintaining a healthy weight and regular exercise can make the difference in your daily pain management.

Conclusion

Listen closely to your body for signs of pain. Consider tracking days, times and activities when pain is flaring up and discuss with your doctor. Back pain can be physically and emotionally draining. Epidural injections, radiofrequency ablations and spinal cord stimulators are just a few of the things that can help manage chronic back pain. Learn to effectively manage pain with a team of experts and get back to enjoying life and doing things you love.

Dr. Alex Bigham is the owner and CEO of Novocur Pain Management Clinics and has over 18 years of healthcare experience in private practice and Ambulatory Surgical Center settings. Novocur offers advanced treatment options in a concierge type practice without the concierge price tag. Dr. Bigham appears frequently on local TV and radio programs to discuss the latest in Pain Management or related health topics.