Acute back pain and chronic back pain are two different symptoms, but both ailments can stop you from important activities like work, taking care of yourself and your family and living the full life you deserve.
Acute back pain refers to pain that lasts a short period of time. While acute back pain can be an intense, sharp and shooting pain, it generally lasts a few days or a few weeks. Causes of acute pain might be a car accident, sports injury or sleeping in an awkward position.
Chronic back pain, on the other hand, is back pain that has lasted more than three months. Often, but not always, this type of pain is a dull, throbbing pain. Chronic back pain also can become progressively worse over time, and since it is a persistent pain that could indicate a serious or life-threatening condition, it’s important to see a physician who can determine the cause of the discomfort.
Acute or chronic back pain will affect the majority of Americans at some point in their lives. Often, chronic low back pain will begin to surface in middle-aged years and will cause individuals to miss days from work. There are, however, a variety of treatment options available so that the discomfort of back pain symptoms does not have to be a way of life.
The first step to combating acute or chronic back pain is to educate yourself about the many conditions that can cause these symptoms. Our cervical (neck), thoracic (middle) and lumbar (lower) spinal regions are made up of a series of 24 individual vertebrae, and each vertebra is separated from the ones above and below by a padded disc, called an intervertebral disc. These discs absorb tension and stress from the daily activities our necks and backs endure. As we age, however, the soft discs can begin to degenerate, rupture and shift. On both sides of a vertebra there are open spaces called foramina through which spinal nerves travel on their way to other parts of the body. If a damaged disc impinges on this neural passageway and constricts the nerves, pain will result. Other issues that could lead to acute or chronic back pain are herniated disc, bulging disc, bone spurs, arthritis, a sports injury or improper body mechanics.
Acute and chronic back pain symptoms depend on the location of your spinal damage, but can include the following:
- Lower back pain – Disc damage in the lumbar region of the spine can affect nerves that control sensation in the legs, buttocks and feet. You may experience pain that shoots down one leg, called sciatica, due to pressure on the sciatic nerve in the lower back.
- Thoracic back pain – Patients may feel pain in the area of the rib cage because the middle vertebrae attach directly to the ribs. Numbness or tingling may occur. In severe cases, patients experience spinal deformities.
- Upper back pain – The cervical region of the spine encompasses the upper neck and back. Damage to a cervical vertebra can result in pain, tingling or loss of feeling in the neck, shoulders, arms and hands. Since these vertebrae link the spine to the head, problems with head-neck coordination can occur.
If a thorough examination prompts your physician to diagnose you with acute or chronic back pain, let us introduce you to our minimally invasive procedures that have helped tens of thousands of people find relief from neck and back pain. Contact us today for your MRI review to determine if one of our outpatient procedures can help you.