Back pain is one of the most common conditions affecting millions in India. It can cause a lot of discomfort and affect your ability to carry out daily activities. The intensity of the pain also varies from person to person.
Back pain can happen for various reasons like improper posture, muscle strain, injury or specific medical conditions in a few cases. It is important that one must identify the root cause of the pain through a proper diagnosis. This will enable pain experts and specialists to design an effective treatment plan that targets the affected area and offers pain relief.
The focus of this blog will be on deciphering the different types of back pain depending on its intensity, duration and location of the pain. Along with that, we will address the non-invasive treatments that can help in dealing with back pain discomfort.
Types of back pain based on intensity and duration
To begin with, back pain can be broadly divided into acute and chronic, depending on the intensity and duration of the pain.
Acute Back Pain
Acute back pain refers to sudden and short-term discomfort in the back. It usually lasts for a few days to a couple of weeks. Its symptoms may include:
- Sharp or stabbing pain
- Limited range of motion
- Muscle stiffness and tension
Subacute Back Pain
Subacute back pain can occur suddenly and can sometimes last between four to 12 weeks.
Chronic Back Pain
Chronic pain often lasts 12 weeks or more. In some severe cases, the pain persists for years. Its symptoms may include:
- Dull, aching pain that may be constant or intermittent
- Pain that radiates to other areas, such as the legs
- Fatigue and mood disturbances
If you are suffering from chronic back pain, it is important to contact your Pain specialists. They are experts in identifying, evaluating and treating acute and chronic back pain. By performing a thorough diagnosis of your back pain, they can design treatment plans with experts such as physiotherapists, pain therapists and nutritionists to improve physical abilities and enhance overall well-being.
|Who are Pain specialists?|
Nivaan’s Pain specialists manage your pain by designing a care plan, including medications, injections, or other interventional procedures. Understanding the best care plan for your back pain requires a collaborative approach that addresses the physical aspects of pain and the psychological and social factors contributing to it.
Types of back pain depending on the location
National Library of Medicine
According to a study conducted by NIH, more than 23% of adults suffer from chronic low back pain.
The upper and middle back pain
The upper back, or thoracic spine, is the region between the base of your neck and the abdomen. It is the longest section of your spine. The bones and muscles in this area act as shock absorbers, protecting the spinal cord from injury. These bones also help you to twist and turn.
Upper and middle back pain can occur due to fractures, injuries, poor sitting posture, or other underlying conditions like arthritis.
Lower back pain
The lower back or lumbar spine supports the upper half of the body. It connects to your hips and holds the weight of your upper body. It also helps in your everyday movement, like walking and running.
Lower back pain is much more common than upper back pain. It can be due to muscle strain, injury, bad sitting or sleeping posture, arthritis, structural problems, etc.
Reasons for chronic back pain
Poor posture is one of the leading causes of chronic back pain. Sitting for long hours, incorrect standing or sleeping posture, or lifting heavy objects can cause severe pain.
Slouching over the desk while at work or reading a book on the bed can also strain back muscles, leading to irritation or inflammation.
An untreated or traumatic injury can also cause chronic back pain. Common injuries include sports injuries, sprains, strains, herniated discs and fractured vertebrae. If an injury is left untreated, it may lead to severe chronic back pain and nerve damage.
Lumbar muscle strain
One of the most common causes of lower back pain, lumbar muscle strain, is caused when muscles get abnormally stretched or torn. This can be due to a sudden injury or gradual overuse of the ligaments.
Lower back chronic pain caused due to a lumbar strain or sprain can be crippling. It is best to seek immediate medical help.
A herniated disc, slipped disc or disc degeneration can happen due to wear and tear. It can be caused by lifting heavy weights, excess body weight, smoking, or it can also be genetic.
Slipped discs are extremely painful and can increase muscle weakness, hindering everyday activities.
Other underlying medical reasons for chronic back pain
Chronic back pain may not necessarily happen because of a muscle strain or injury. It can also occur due to the bones becoming weak and brittle because of conditions like osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis generally affects menopausal women and certain ethnic groups more than other people. This happens due to calcium deficiencies, estrogen deficiencies and a sedentary lifestyle.
The symptoms include severe back pain, unexplained weight loss, stooped posture and bones that may break easily.
Cauda Equina Syndrome
The collection of nerves at the end of the spinal cord is called cauda equina. They send and receive messages to and from your legs, feet, and pelvic organs.
The causes of Cauda Equina Syndrome are violent injury in the lumbar area, a spinal tumour or infection, or birth defects. It is a rare syndrome that may often require surgery.
The symptoms include severe pain, numbness, weakness while standing up, leg pain, loss of sensations in the lower back, thighs and feet, and bowel function inconsistencies.
Ankylosing Spondylitis is chronic, inflammatory pain of the axile spine. If left untreated, the spinal bones fuse to appear hunched.
The primary cause of this condition is usually genetic.
Symptoms include back, neck, and lower hip stiffness, especially in the morning or after long hours of inactivity. Severe neck pain and fatigue are also common symptoms.
The sciatic nerve originates in the lower back and extends down the back of each leg. This nerve is responsible for controlling the muscles located at the back of the knee and lower leg.
Pressure or damage to the sciatic nerve can cause sciatica. It may happen due to prolonged sitting hours, obesity, age and diabetes.
It causes a tingling sensation, muscle weakness, or numbness.
Sciatica generally disappears with a few weeks of rest and medication if treated early.
Arthritis is the swelling and tenderness in one or more joints. There are two main types of arthritis, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis happens due to regular wear and tear of the joint’s cartilage, and rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease attacking the joint’s lining. This can eventually destroy the cartilage and bones.
Women are more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis.
The symptoms of arthritis include reduced movement, pain, stiffness and swelling.
Studies show that even after two years of postpartum, 1 out of 2 women suffer chronic back pain. This is because, during pregnancy, the ligaments naturally become softer and stretch to prepare for labour. This can strain your lower back and hips.
The symptoms include sharp pain from the back and radiating towards the legs.
Nerve root pain
Nerve root pain originates from the nerves that have been damaged or inflamed. There are three types — cervical, thoracic and lumbar.
If you suffer from nerve root pain, you will feel a tingling sensation and numbness in the area. Primarily affecting people over 50, this condition also poses risks for those with bone growth complications, herniated discs, or severe injuries.
Spinal stenosis is the narrowing of one or more spaces within your spine. The tightening of space can cause the spinal cord or the surrounding nerves to compress, become irritated and cause chronic back pain. The most common symptoms include numbness or weakness in the groin, legs, buttocks and thighs.
Usually, people over the age of 50 years suffer from spinal stenosis.
Non-invasive treatment methods for chronic back pain
There are several non-surgical pain-relieving techniques to manage your chronic back pain. Here we have listed a few techniques to reduce chronic back pain without invasive procedures.
Heat and cold therapy
Applying a cold compress to an inflamed joint is a tried and tested method to reduce chronic back pain. You can also follow it up with a warm compress; do not apply a hot compress to the affected area for more than 20 minutes.
This works because cold therapy causes the blood vessels to contract and reduces circulation, decreasing pain. Once the cold pack is removed, the veins expand and increase circulation. Adding a heat pack assists the circulation flow, which helps reduce inflammation in the injured tissue.
This combination works best for osteoarthritis, back spasms, tendonitis, sports-related injury, etc.
Physiotherapy for chronic back pain can help strengthen your back, stomach, and leg muscles – all of which support your spine. The physiotherapist targets muscular strength that can assist in lumbar support and flexibility, increasing blood flow and reducing inflammation. It is important to remember that too much or too little physical activity can also aggravate the pain.
This addresses not just the physical aspects of discomfort but also the emotional and psychological factors that contribute to the perception of pain and its management. Psychological therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), relaxation techniques, and mindfulness practices, can empower individuals to better understand and cope with their pain.
Don’t let the pain dictate your life
Living with chronic back pain is no easy feat. It impacts your daily life, restricting your ability to perform routine activities and making you give up on things you usually love doing. Do not let the pain take over your life. It is important that a timely diagnosis should be made to understand the root cause of the pain and undergo relevant treatment that provides relief and hope for a pain-free life.
What are the 3 causes of back pain?
The three most common causes of back pain are –
- Poor postures – This is a significant contributor to chronic back pain. Sitting for long periods or standing with a hunched back can strain muscles and ligaments, causing severe back pain.
- Degenerative conditions – Chronic back pain can also stem from degenerative conditions such as osteoarthritis, disc degeneration disease, and spondylolisthesis.
- Improper heavy lifting – Lifting or moving heavy objects requires proper techniques. If done incorrectly, you can overexert your muscles and tendons, causing inflammation and strain in your back.
What are the different types of back pain?
Back pain can be classified depending on the severity, duration of the pain and the location where one is experiencing pain.
As per severity and duration, back pain can be classified into three types –
- Acute back pain
- Subacute pain
- Chronic pain
Depending on the location of the pain, it can be classified into three types –
- Upper and middle back pain
- Lower back pain
- Tailbone pain
What is chronic back pain?
It is a persistent pain that lasts for 12 weeks or more, sometimes even years. The pain can range from mild to severe and may be continuous or intermittent. Chronic back pain symptoms can be dull aching, sharp pains, and radiating discomfort to other body parts, like the legs.
How can you tell the difference between muscular and nerve back pain?
Differentiating between muscular and nerve pain is critical for proper diagnosis and treatment –
- Muscular pain is a localised pain. With physical activity, movement or when the affected area is touched, it can make the pain worse. You can feel the tightness and cramping, causing muscle cramps.
- Nerve pain starts from one point and radiates along the nerve path, accompanied by numbing and tingling sensations. The pain can be acute and is often described as sharp, burning, or electric-like.
Is it normal to have back pain every day?
While back pain is a common complaint among adults, daily pain suggests a chronic condition or a lingering acute problem that hasn’t resolved itself. Persistent back pain can also affect your quality of life, causing other issues like sleep disturbance, fatigue, or mood changes. Experiencing back pain every day is generally not considered “normal” and could indicate an underlying issue requiring medical attention. If you are experiencing this, we recommend you consult your doctor or book an appointment with Nivaan and consult our expert pain specialists.