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If you suffer from back pain, then you’re among the 49% of adults in the U.S. who experience this problem. Typically, this pain is felt in the lower back or side area depending on the cause of the pain.
For many, this pain is temporary. For others, it can develop into a chronic condition requiring medical treatment.
It’s important for you to understand what’s causing the side and back pain so you can treat the problem and get relief. This can help you improve your back health and avoid having the problem become chronic.
We’re here to tell you about the causes of back and side pain so you can get the problem taken care of and resume your normal routine.
Common Causes of Side and Back Pain
There are two main causes of side and back pain.
Straining muscles or ligaments is a very common cause of side or back pain. Luckily these types of injuries tend to heal quickly and do not need significant medical intervention.
There are several ways people get strains. Lifting a heavy object can cause injury as the weight being lifted puts a great deal of stress on the lower back muscles and ligaments. This can create lower back strain as well as back inflammation leading to pain.
Using improper lifting techniques adds to the risk of suffering back and side injuries. Not lifting objects using your legs to support the weight will focus the strain of lifting on the back and side areas and can cause lower back strain.
Another way you can strain your back or side area is making quick or awkward movements which can strain the back or side region. This is especially common in sports activities or if a person suffers a fall.
Finally, the strain can be the result of bad posture which creates an injury over time as the muscles and ligaments are kept in an improper position for an extended period.
2. Structural Problems
In addition to muscle or ligament problems, issues with other parts of the back can create side and back pain. These kinds of problems are the most likely to lead to chronic back and side pain.
There are several possible structural problems.
Arthritis is one of the most frequent causes of back pain. Estimates suggest 40 million persons in the U.S. suffer from arthritis. Often arthritis affects the lower back area and can be a cause of chronic pain.
Another bone-related problem which can cause back problems is osteoporosis. Because osteoporosis can damage the spine and lead to fractures, it can create pain in the lower back and side areas. This condition is especially common in older persons.
Problems with vertebral discs which are located between the individual vertebrae can be another source of back and side pain. These discs provide cushioning between the vertebrae which helps support a healthy spine.
As a person ages, the discs become weaker and can wear down. This results in the loss of cushioning and ultimately back and side pain.
If a disc ruptures, it can create pressure on the nerves in the spine and can result in chronic pain. In the same way, bulging discs can create pain in the side and back area.
These conditions cause a nerve irritation called sciatica. Sciatica creates a sharp pain that travels down the lower back and into the buttocks and back of leg area.
Damage to the spinal nerves can also result from spinal stenosis which is the narrowing of the spinal canal. The narrowing creates pressure on the nerves running through the spine and can cause you to feel pain.
Another frequent cause of pain is trauma which can lead to fractures or dislocations of the vertebrae. Trauma can be caused by incidents such as falls or motor vehicle accidents which damage the spine area.
Identifying the Cause of Back Pain
For those with back and side pain, it may be necessary to seek medical intervention to deal with the problem. Your doctor will diagnose the cause of the pain using several techniques.
X-rays are useful for detecting broken bones in the spine and see the alignment of the spine. The x-ray can also help identify arthritis which may be causing the pain.
2. CT and MRI Scans
Unlike x-rays, CT and MRI scans are good for examining soft tissues such as tendons, muscles, ligaments, and vertebral disks. This makes these tests particularly useful for soft tissue back and side injuries.
3. Bone Scan
A bone scan is helpful where compression fractures are suspected. Identifying brittle bones can help the doctor decide if osteoporosis is the problem causing the back pain.
An EMG test can diagnose nerve compression in the spinal region caused by conditions such as disc problems or stenosis.
Addressing Back Pain
If your back pain is due to a muscle or ligament strain, it will likely get better on its own with some rest and recovery time. Using over-the-counter painkillers and a heating pad can help many with minor strains.
For more serious cases, muscle relaxants, stronger painkillers, and steroid injections may be prescribed by a doctor. Typically, the treatment will also include physical therapy sessions to aid the body in healing.
If the back and side pain is chronic and does not respond to non-surgical treatments, then spinal surgery can be an option. The type of back surgery performed will depend on the condition causing the back pain.
Should the chronic pain not improve after back surgery, then the use of spinal cord stimulators like the one found on this website can help give relief from back and side pain.
Maintaining Your Back Health
Avoiding side and back pain is important to continue a healthy and active lifestyle. Whether it’s running with your dog or taking strolls in the park, you’ll need exercise to have a healthy back.
Understanding the common causes of back pain and knowing when to seek medical attention for chronic back problems will help keep you moving.
Be sure to check back often to find out more information about your health and fitness.