Back Pain is regarded as one of the leading causes of disability across the world. Recent data suggest that half of all US citizens admitted to being affected by a back pain issue at least once over the past year. In fact, it was reported as the third most common reason for visiting a doctor, and the costs associated with the issue are estimated to exceed over $50 billion annually. With more and more people reporting back issues year on year, the number of visits to doctors, physical therapy facilities, and online physical therapy for back pain has also been growing.
Introduction to back pain
The back area of the body hosts a complex structure that includes several bones, ligaments, joints, and muscles that allows the body to perform daily tasks normally and also provides protection against injury to crucial organs. Because of this complexity, several issues can arise around the back region from causes like accidental injuries, fitness issues, and diseases. Depending upon the segment of the back affected, back pain is commonly divided into the following four types:
I. Neck pain (cervical)
II. Middle back pain (thoracic),
III. Lower back pain (lumbar),
IV. Sacral pain (coccydynia or tailbone)
An overwhelming majority of back pain issues are treatable and a large majority of patients with back injuries often successfully return to a normal lifestyle after proper treatment and rehabilitation. However, a few back pain issues can also signify something serious like kidney problems or spinal cord cancer and may even require surgery.
There are different symptoms for different kinds of back pain, ranging from muscle aches to sensations of burning or stabbing, with some pain even radiating across other parts of the body. Depending upon the severity of the symptoms, the physician determines the ideal tests and procedure to understand the exact issue, based on which the ideal treatment plan for the patient will be planned.
Types of back pain
Back pain is basically classified into three types, which include the following:
I. Axial pain: Axial pain is also known as mechanical pain, and is the type of pain that is centered at one specific point of the back. The nature of the pain, however, may vary from one patient to another with symptoms ranging from a consistent sharp pain, to irregular dull pain. Muscle strain, joint strain and disc tear are among the most common causes of axial back pain.
II. Referred pain: Referred pain often tends to be dull but painful, with a feeling of pain traveling around different places in the body. For example, because of degenerative discs, the pain may travel towards the hip or posterior thigh areas.
III. Radicular pain:Radicular pain is characterized by a sensation that is reported to be like an electric shock following the path of the spinal nerve, starting from the spinal canal. The main cause of radicular pain is the compression and/or inflammation of the spinal nerve root from conditions like herniated discs, spinal stenosis, etc. Sciatica involves radicular pain.
Aside from the above classification, there is also another classification, based on the duration of the pain, which include the following:
I. Acute back pain, which lasts for less than 6 weeks
II. Subacute back pain, which lasts between 6 and 12 weeks
III. Chronic back pain, which lasts for more than 12 weeks
Some common back-pain conditions
Let’s look at five of the most common issues that are reported by patients from across the world, and treated with onsite and online physical therapy for back pain:
1. Degenerative disc diseases
The most common kinds of back pain are caused by damages or changes to the spinal disc. The spinal discs are the fibrocartilaginous joints present between the bones of the spine, which allows the back to work flexibly. But with factors like age, genetics, lifestyle choices, etc, these joins can show signs of wear and tear, and not work well. These damages can lead to pain in some, while others may not feel pain but their flexibility may get reduced.
Infections in the spine like Vertebral Osteomyelitis can also cause back pain and lead to problems around body flexibility and mobility. It usually occurs around the lower-back region.
3. Non-specific low back pain
Not all causes of low back pain can be linked to definitive causes. Such cases are called non-specific low back pain. Almost 95% of all patients recover from non-specific low back pain. But the recurrence of the condition is also very common, with up to 60% people expected to suffer from another episode within 6 months of recovery.
4. Autoimmune diseases
Autoimmune conditions are the result of the immune system mistaking natural body parts as invaders and attacking them. This can result in a heavy destruction of healthy cells in the body and cause various health problems in patients. Autoimmune response against the joints in the body can also lead to back pain and inflammation. Rheumatoid arthritis, is one of the most commonly observed autoimmune diseases that primarily attacks elder populations.
5. Rhomboid pain
Tearing and stretching of the rhomboid muscles, that is situated between the upper back and shoulder blades can also cause back pain. Spasm in the rhomboid muscles is often caused by overuse of the shoulder and arms, which often feels like a knot or tightness in the muscles.
Back pain is a very common condition that can affect people from all walks of life. However, there are a few factors that can put some populations at greater risk of developing back pain. These include the following:
- Age:New back pain issues often tend to develop with age, starting from the 30s. So older people are at more risk of developing back-pain
- Inactivity:People who are physically less active are observed to be at significantly higher risk of developing back pain and muscle issues, compared to physically active people. For example, people involved in jobs that require them to sit for long hours on the chair are considered to be a high risk group in terms of susceptibility towards developing back pain.
- Excessive weight and improper lifting:Putting excessive weights beyond the body’s normal carrying capacity and improper lifting techniques can make the body susceptible to back pain. People involved professionally in carrying huge weights like power-lifters and porters are at significantly high risk of developing back pain.
- Susceptibility towards certain diseases:Patients with specific forms of arthritis (rheumatoid) and cancer(spinal cord, kidney, etc) are observed to be at a high-risk for developing back pain.
- Psychological conditions:Anxiety and depression sufferers have been observed to have a higher risk of developing back pain, compared to average levels.
- Smoking: In general, smokers have higher rates of back pain, compared to non-smokers. Contraction of blood vessels and stress to the back because of coughing makes a smoker more susceptible to developing herniated disks.
Physical therapy for back-pain
Physical therapy is a scientifically proven effective first-line treatment for dealing with back pain. In fact, Physical therapy is one of the most commonly used treatment methods for dealing with back pain issues. A properly administered physical therapy regime can not only reduce back pain, but even eliminate it altogether in many cases. It allows patients to not only bring the back pain to a more manageable level, but also enable the body to gain more strength and avoid serious pain episodes in the future.
A professional physical therapist sets an ideal treatment and exercise plan on the instructions of the physician based on the patient’s capacity. Initial rehabilitation procedures for back pain treatment may need you to be present in person. But further procedures can be done be home through exercises, or through an expert-supervised online physical therapy for back pain. Most patients can successfully overcome their back pain and return to normal life after a few weeks or months of treatment under the supervision of the physical therapist.