Back pain is a very common occurrence and affects most people at some time in their lives. It is all too easy to hurt your back, even if you don’t realise that you are putting it under unnatural stress at the time. There are obvious causes such as an injury or activity. However modern life, which has become more sedentary, is also not ideal for a trouble-free back. Sitting down for long periods can have an effect on muscles, tendons and ligaments, and can cause back pain. In relatively rare cases back pain can also be an indication of more serious underlying problems which are not musculoskeletal disorders.
Causes & Symptoms
Not all pain is the same: two main types of back pain
Back pain can be either acute or chronic. These are clinically different. An acute pain is one that goes away fairly quickly and the sufferer can soon continue with normal life. It stops when its underlying cause ceases to be a problem, and is self-limited by the healing process. Acute pain can be mild, and last just a short time, or it may be severe and last longer.
Chronic pain is a pain that persists longer than expected for a normal healing period. It can remain long after the original cause has been removed, and cause lasting stress to the sufferer.
Back pain should be taken seriously. It is easy to dismiss a, perhaps insignificant, pain but you should be aware that it may be the symptom of something more serious and it is important to uncover the cause.
Causes: why does back pain occur?
There are many reasons for back pain, and sometimes it can even occur with no obvious way of identifying the cause (non-specific back pain). The problem may be due to your spinal discs, muscles, nerves or joints; it may be due to an accident or injury; or perhaps due to lifestyle activities; or even stress, depression or anxiety. It may also be due to a medical condition such as arthritis or, less commonly, a tumour. It could even be a less obvious cause such as kidney problems, fibromyalgia, osteomyelitis or endometriosis.
Symptoms: back pain warning signs
First, and most importantly, any back pain following an injury, or any chronic or persistent back pain should be checked by a doctor. Apart from that there are a number of accompanying symptoms that should always be heeded:
- Any back pain that extends beyond the back such as to the leg, pelvis or shoulder
- Back pain with persistent headache at the back of the head
- Any numbness, tingling or unexplained weakness accompanying a back pain
- A fever or unexplained weight loss with your back pain
- Bowel or bladder problems
- You should also be aware if your back pain occurs at a particular time of day such as at night
Solution: how we detect the causes of your back pain
Schoen Clinic is a highly specialised hospital for orthopaedic conditions such as spinal problems. By a combination of outstanding professional medical expertise and technological diagnostic application we are able to identify the reason for your back pain symptoms. All our departments work together to provide a holistic diagnosis and a treatment plan tailored to your needs.
Examination: clinical assessment
After an in-depth discussion with you about your symptoms and medical history, your consultant will give you an extensive physical examination. This includes examining your posture, spine alignment, and the location and occurrence of your persistent pain or pain episodes. Further examination of your spine by function tests will identify any mobility problems. Any neurological information will be provided by testing your sensitivity, reflexes and muscle strength.
Imaging: deeper investigation
If it is felt that there is a need to confirm the initial indications of the physical examination or to further explore the source of the problem, it may be appropriate carry out blood tests, x-ray, CT scan, bone density test, molecular imaging or other types of medical imaging such as MRI or ultrasound.
Further tests: a holistic approach
Because of our holistic approach a number of different specialists can be involved in precise diagnosis and treatment plans, such as orthopaedic specialists, neurologists, pain therapists and physiotherapists.
Back Pain Treatment
We have found that, in about 80% of patients presenting with back pain, a non-invasive approach including medication and physiotherapy is sufficient to treat the problem. Some back pains may have a psychosomatic origin, and in these cases the intervention of one of our psychologists can prove a beneficial part of a successful course of treatment, in line with our holistic approach to health at Schoen Clinic.
Medication: pain relief
Both acute and chronic back pain should be treated as early as possible. Medication to relieve pain comes in a number of forms; muscle relaxants, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, acetaminophen, opioid analgesics oral steroids and anti-depressant medications. It may be that medication alone is enough to help with recovery, but it may also be appropriate to be prescribed medication in combination with physiotherapy.
Physiotherapy: strengthening your back muscles
Any treatment plan is more efficacious when physical exercise, to build muscle and train muscle memory, is included. Schoen Clinic has onsite physiotherapy where our physiotherapists can prepare your own exercise plan, designed to meet your individual requirements for recovery. If you are eager to get back to sporting activities or even just pain-free everyday life, Schoen Clinic physiotherapists can assist and advise you on the best path to full recovery.
Spinal Surgery: may be appropriate
If a cure for your condition is not possible using conservative methods, surgery may be a consideration. At every stage in your recovery at Schoen Clinic decisions are yours, and you will be able to discuss all the options fully with your consultant. You can rest assured that if surgery is a necessary part of your treatment, our spinal surgeons are among the most experienced anywhere, and are recognised as experts in their field both nationally and internationally.
Spinal surgery today is minimally invasive wherever possible; microsurgical techniques and endoscopic spinal surgery are routinely used. Minimally invasive surgery requires only a very small skin incision which, in turn, results in significantly reduced scarring and a quicker recovery time.