The human back is a complex structure of 24 individual vertebrae (the bones of the spine), between the head and the pelvis. It is supported by 24 ribs, multiple muscles, nerves, ligaments, tendons, and fascia. There are also cartilage-like pads called discs between the bones of our spine that provide cushion. Injuries or imbalances with any of these can lead to back pain!
Back pain can come from an injury (trauma), but in the absence of trauma, it virtually always develops over time from poor posture, and unbalanced use. Back pain that lasts for more than 3 months is defined as “Chronic back pain” and it can cause long-term restrictions in your overall mobility and quality of life. Do not wait to treat your back pain! The longer it goes on, the worse it gets, and eventually progresses into degrees of irreversible damage!
What does a Back Injury Feel Like?
Different types of back pain will feel different based upon where in your back you are hurt, and how you did it. Still, most back injuries have similar symptoms, including:
Frequent, or even constant, aching and/or stiffness along the spine, which can be anywhere from the base of your head all the way down to the tail bone.
Sharp pain in one spot, especially after lifting something heavy, getting up after sitting for a long time (like driving, working, or binge-watching a show) or bending over (either forward or back).
A chronic ache that gets worse after sitting or standing for long periods of time.
Pain that goes from the low back into the buttock, and down the thigh, and maybe even into the leg or foot.
Painful muscle spasms when trying to stand straight.
Stiffness, and inability to move like you used to, or as much as you should be able to move.
Causes of Upper & Middle Back Pain
Upper and mid back pain is commonly caused by not using your muscles in a balanced way. Uneven use of any joint will lead to uneven wear & tear. Overuse, muscle strains, ligament sprains, injuries (trauma), poor posture, and herniated discs also cause upper and middle back pain.
One of the most common causes of upper and mid back pain is called Upper Cross Syndrome.
Causes of Low Back Pain
Lower back pain is commonly caused by not using your muscles in a balanced way. Uneven use of any joint will lead to uneven wear & tear. Many people will experience a low back injury from lifting wrong or after sitting wrong (usually with too much arch in the low back). Too much pressure on your nerves (Nerve entrapment) and muscular imbalances in the hips can also cause low back pain.
How long before a back injury heals?
Pain symptoms are more common as you get older, as most people will ignore it the first few times it happens. There is a common pattern of having 1-2 episodes a year, and they will get worse and worse each time. The longer you let it go, the longer it will take for you to heal, because you will begin to develop bad habits, and your body will wear down more and more.
Also, your risk of long-term injury and disability is increased the more sedentary you are (more activity is generally better) or by carrying extra weight (more weight = more stress. It increases the need to be stronger). The types of repetitive stress that you subject your body to also can increase your recovery time. Some types of lifting, pushing, and extended sitting will cause you to heal more slowly.
With hour-long visits, a thorough evaluation and proper diagnosis is obtained, and your treatment is much more specific to what is hurting you, and this leads to much quicker healing.
88% of our patients get out of pain in a short amount of time. Typically, in fewer than 4 visits!
Can I prevent back pain?
In general, the more active you are, and the more balanced you are, the better.
Your posture, while sitting, driving, standing, walking, and sleeping are all very important!
Traditional Treatment for Back Pain
Unfortunately, most primary care doctors, emergency rooms, and urgent care centers are so busy that a general diagnosis is given, and because the back is so complex, very often an incorrect diagnosis is given.
The pain medication, steroids, and anti-inflammatories work fairly well to hide the pain and other symptoms until your body has adapted enough to be able to handle the pain for a while longer.
This just extends the underlying problem, which sets you up to have another episode, that is worse, in a few months. If the injury is severe enough, you may find out whether injections work for you, they may even recommend surgery.