What are the causes of Back Pain?
Back pain often develops without a cause that your doctor can identify with a test or an imaging study. Conditions commonly linked to back pain include:
- Muscle or ligament strain. Repeated heavy lifting or a sudden awkward movement can strain back muscles and spinal ligaments. If you’re in poor physical condition, constant strain on your back can cause painful muscle spasms.
- Osteoporosis. Your spine’s vertebrae can develop painful fractures if your bones become porous and brittle.
- Bulging or ruptured disks. Disks act as cushions between the bones (vertebrae) in your spine. The soft material inside a disk can bulge or rupture and press on a nerve. However, you can have a bulging or ruptured disk without back pain. Disk disease is often found incidentally when you have spine X-rays for some other reason.
- Arthritis. Osteoarthritis can affect the lower back. In some cases, arthritis in the spine can lead to a narrowing of the space around the spinal cord, a condition called spinal stenosis.
Procedures used to treat back pain may include:
- Cortisone injections. If other measures don’t relieve your pain, and if your pain radiates down your leg, your doctor may inject cortisone — a strong anti-inflammatory drug — plus a numbing medication into the space around your spinal cord (epidural space). A cortisone injection helps decrease inflammation around the nerve roots, but the pain relief usually lasts only a month or two.
- Radiofrequency neurotomy. In this procedure, a fine needle is inserted through your skin so the tip is near the area causing your pain. Radio waves are passed through the needle to damage the nearby nerves, which interferes with the delivery of pain signals to the brain.
- Implanted nerve stimulators. Devices implanted under your skin can deliver electrical impulses to certain nerves to block pain signals.
- Surgery. If you have unrelenting pain associated with radiating leg pain or progressive muscle weakness caused by nerve compression, you might benefit from surgery. These procedures are usually reserved for pain related to structural problems, such as narrowing of the spine (spinal stenosis) or a herniated disk, that hasn’t responded to other therapy.