Two primary causes of back pain: muscle strain and herniated discs

Back pain is a symptom of many different conditions, ranging from a strained muscle to a degenerative spine condition such as a herniated disc.

Many conditions resulting in back pain have similar sets of symptoms, which can sometimes make diagnosis difficult. Two of the most common underlying causes of back pain are muscle strain and disc herniation. However, before you move forward with treatments for these conditions, schedule an appointment with your doctor for a more accurate diagnosis.

Back pain caused by a muscle strain

Muscle strain can occur in the back through overuse, improper use or trauma. When overstretched, these soft tissues can develop microscopic tears. This type of injury is usually characterized by localized discomfort that can range from mild to severe depending on the severity of the tear and if it causes any nerve compression.

Once a diagnosis is confirmed, a lumbar strain is usually treated with some of the following methods:

  • Short periods of rest
  • Avoiding high-impact activities
  • Pain relievers or anti-inflammatories
  • Heat applications and cold compression
  • Massage

Your physician should always approve and monitor any treatment for back pain to ensure you are not irritating the condition and worsening the symptoms.

Back pain caused by a herniated disc

Back pain can also result from nerve compression caused by a damaged disc in the spine. With age, the spinal discs lose elasticity. This makes them more prone to damage from normal activity or traumatic injury. When this happens, the outer disc wall can rupture, and allow some of the gel-like nucleus to be pushed out. Nerve endings in the disc wall can become inflamed and cause pain if they come into contact with the nucleus material. Additionally, a herniated disc can come into contact with the spinal cord or nearby nerve root. The resulting nerve pressure can cause local or radiating pain, numbness or muscle weakness.

Treatment options for a herniated disc can range from conservative management to surgery. Specific conservative options include:

  • Rest
  • Hot and cold therapy
  • Lifestyle changes like quitting smoking or starting a weight management program
  • Medications to relieve pain and muscle spasms
  • Epidural steroid injections
  • Physical therapy

Surgery for a herniated disc

Minimally invasive spine surgery at Laser Spine Institute may become an option when more conservative treatments for back pain have been exhausted. By using muscle-sparing techniques that allow for an outpatient procedure, our minimally invasive procedures offer a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back surgery.^

To learn more, contact Laser Spine Institute today. Our dedicated team can help you receive a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.