Most people experience one or another form of back pain at some point in their lives. There can be many causes, including accidents, strains and sports injuries.
To understand back pain, it’s important to know that the spine, or backbone, is made up of a column of 33 bones and tissue extending from the skull to the pelvis. These bones, or vertebrae, enclose and protect a cylinder of nerve tissues known as the spinal cord. Between each one of the vertebra is an intervertebral disk, or band of cartilage serving as a shock absorber between the vertebrae.
The types of vertebrae are:
- Cervical vertebrae: the seven vertebrae forming the upper part of the spine
- Thoracic vertebrae: the 12 bones between the neck and the lower back
- Lumbar vertebrae: the five largest and strongest vertebrae located in the lower back between the chest and hips
- The sacrum and coccyx are the bones at the base of the spine. The sacrum is made up of five vertebrae fused together, while the coccyx (tailbone) is formed from four fused vertebrae.
What Causes Back Pain?
Overuse is a very common source of back pain and stiffness. However this usually goes away after a few days. Others causes of chronic pain include:
- Disc tear
- Spondylolisthesis. Normal wear and tear makes it hard for your joints and ligaments to keep your spine in the proper position, especially as we age. When a vertebrae moves more than it should, it can slide forward and on top of another. When this happens, bones can press on the spinal nerves and cause lower back pain.
- Vertebral fractures caused by osteoporosis (brittle bones)
- Spinal stenosis. A narrowing of the spine space around the spinal cord can put pressure on nerves. The narrowing is typically caused by bone spurs that have developed as a result of osteoarthritis.
- Scoliosis. An abnormal curvature of the spine can cause back pain.
How Do We Diagnose Back Pain?
Get Help Today
In addition to performing a complete history and physical exam for your back pain, the pain management specialists at Tri-State Pain Institute may suggest one of the following diagnostic studies:
X-rays, which can be used to provide detail of the bone structures in the spine and to check for instability (such as spondylolisthesis, see below), tumors, and fractures.
CT scans, which can identify specific conditions, such as a herniated disc or spinal stenosis.
MRI scans, which can provide details about the backs’ discs and nerve roots. MRI scans are most commonly used for pre-surgical planning.
A number of other imaging and electrical studies may also be used to identify back problems, and some injections are used for diagnostic purposes as well as for pain relief.
How Do We Treat Back Pain?
At Tri-State Pain Institute, our goal is to use a comprehensive, conservative plan to treat your acute or chronic pain but without developing long-term reliance and dependence. We also provide minimally invasive X-ray guided procedures such as epidurals, radio frequency ablations and spinal cord stimulators to improve function and relieve pain.
Our pain medicine specialists will work with you to develop a treatment plan that best addresses your specific condition and lifestyle. Your treatment for neck and shoulder pain may include several non-invasive and surgical options, including:
- Physical Therapy
- Nerve Root Block
- Trigger Point Injections
- Epidural Steroid Injections
- Radiofrequency Ablations
- Spinal Cord Stimulators