Chronic back pain is common. So common that many of us just grin and bear it. We write it off as old age or bad posture.
Lower back pain reveals itself in many ways. It can be a deep, dull ache in your lower back. Or it can feel like tightness and spasms in and around that area. It can also be a stinging pain or accompanied by numbness or tingling in your legs or feet. No matter how it feels for you, lower back pain hurts.
7 Facts About Chronic Back Pain
1) There are several causes…
There are several causes of back pain. Some are minor and temporary, but others show a more serious, long-term problem. Causes can include:
- Muscle and ligament strain
- Bulging disks
- Sacroiliac joint inflammation
If you’re unsure of the cause of your back pain, it’s important to find the right diagnosis. This will let you and your care team know which treatment will work best for you.
2) … and a lot of risk factors
While many of us can, and will, develop lower back pain, there are some risk factors we can avoid to lessen the likelihood or severity of the disorder. These risk factors include:
- Lifting objects incorrectly can cause strain on your lower back
- Lack of exercise weakens the muscles in your abdomen and back
- Being overweight adds extra stress to your back
- Mental health issues like depression and anxiety are linked to a higher risk for lower back pain
- Smoking can decrease blood flow to the spine as well as increase coughing, which strains the lower back
3) You can avoid little triggers
We can make several slight changes to ease the strain on our lower backs. They may seem like minor changes, but their benefits add up.
- Use a chair with good lower back support
- Arrange your monitor, keyboard, and other office equipment directly in front of you so you’re not twisting or sitting at an angle
- Take a 20 second break to stand up and stretch every 10 minutes to loosen up your joints and muscles
- Avoid tight clothing such as jeans that are too tight which can get in the way of moving, sitting, and bending normally
- Ditch those high heels for a heel that’s an inch or less. This keeps your center of gravity where it should be and avoids your body from compensating
4) You’re not alone
The Mayo Clinic reports that within the past three months, 1 out of 4 adults have reported experiencing back pain. More than that, over 80% of us will experience lower back pain in our lives. It’s also the second most common reason people have for visiting their doctor.
That’s a lot of people struggling with pain. Suffering from lower back pain can feel isolating, so it’s worth remembering that you’re not alone. Reach out to your doctor or look for support groups in your area to find that bit of extra support from those who understand your pain.
5) Be careful of opioids
It’s all too easy to rely on medication to treat lower back pain. However, pain relief pills, especially opioids, only treat the symptom and not the cause. Opioids include oxycodone, codeine, hydrocodone, and morphine. Using and abusing opioids often leads to addiction problems and sometimes even fatal overdoses.
If you find yourself struggling to manage your opioid medications or feel that you depend on them, reach out to your doctor or other health care professional for more information and advice.
6) There are a range of treatments available
There are several treatment options available besides medications which include:
- Physical therapy and conditioning exercise programs
- Weight loss
- Proper footwear
- Epidural Steroid Injections
- Facet Joint Injections
- Sacroiliac joint Injections
- Trigger Point Injections
- Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy (PRP) injections
- Prolotherapy injections
7) SDOMG can help
At San Diego Orthobiologics Medical Group, we offer a range of treatments, including the procedures listed above. We also offer medication management and education. Our focus is on interventional pain procedures as well as medication support to help control and relieve pain. Get in touch today, using the form below:
More than 80 percent of adults will experience lower back pain at some point in their lives.1 It is the single most common cause of disability worldwide 2 and the second most common cause of adult disability in the United States. 3
Most cases of lower back pain have a benign clinical course which resolves with conservative care such as rest, activity modification, anti-inflammatories, heat or ice therapy, and physical therapy. Some, however, will develop chronic low back pain or pain that lasts for 3 months or longer.
Common Causes of Chronic Lower Back Pain
- Arthritis. Osteoarthritis of the spine is a condition where there is degeneration of the joints, discs, and bones in the spine as people age. Arthritis can lead to bone spurs which result in the narrowing of the space around the spinal nerves and spinal cord, a condition called spinal stenosis.
- Facet joint dysfunction: This occurs when the facet joints, the small joints that connect the individual bones in the spinal column, get inflamed or when the cartilage in the joints becomes injured or worn out. They can also get out of normal alignment, a condition called spondylolisthesis.
- Bulging or Ruptured Disc: The discs are soft, gel-filled structures that act as a cushion or shock absorbers between the vertebral bones in your spine. When these discs become injured, they can bulge out and can put pressure on neighboring nerves causing pain. As people age, discs lose their hydration and wear down leading to degeneration. Degenerative discs can develop tears and collapse which causes low back pain, muscle spasm, or spinal stenosis.
Other less common causes of low back pain include spinal cord problems, scoliosis, fracture, and non-spine sources like tumors and kidney stones. It is important that your physician perform a comprehensive evaluation of your medical history and physical examination to give you an appropriate diagnosis for your back pain.
Patients who have failed standard treatments or are seeking alternatives to spine surgery for back pain should consider Regenerative therapies. These advanced treatments involve the use of your own cells to help your body heal faster. They avoid the risks and long-term complications associated with surgery and reduce pain to help you maintain an active lifestyle. Read about these regenerative treatment solutions here.
- Sauver, JL et al. Why patients visit their doctors: Assessing the most prevalent conditions in a defined American population. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, Volume 88, Issue 1, 56–67.
- Hoy D, March L, Brooks P, et al The global burden of low back pain: estimates from the Global Burden of Disease 2010 study Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases Published Online First: 24 March 2014. doi: 10.1136/annrheumdis-2013-204428
- From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Prevalence of disabilities and associated health conditions among adults—United States, 1999. JAMA 2001;285 (12) 1571- 1572
The intervertebral discs are gel filled structures in the spine that act as cushion in between the vertebral bones. Degenerative disc disease (DDD) is a common condition that results from wear and tear of the intervertebral discs. As we age, the discs deteriorate due to repetitive stress, increased load, and decrease in blood flow and nutrition to the discs. Degenerative changes in the discs include: annular tear (tear in the outer fibrous ring of the disc), herniation or bulge, decrease in height, drying out, stiffness and bone spurs.
Symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease
The symptoms of degenerative disc disease are dependent on the disc that is involved and changes in the surrounding spinal structures as a result of, or associated with the degeneration. The most common symptom of degenerative disc disease is a continuous deep pain in the neck, midback or low back that occasionally flares up to a more intense, disabling pain. The episodes can last for a few days or several weeks, and typically recurs. The baseline pain is variable in individuals and can range from almost no pain, nagging ache or severe pain.
The pain typically gets worse with prolonged sitting, standing and walking. Twisting and bending the spine, or carrying heavy loads can also aggravate the pain in the back. Prolonged tilting of the head down while reading or working on the computer can worsen neck pain.
The pain can refer to the buttocks and hips when the lumbar spine is involved, or to the shoulder blade region when the cervical spine is involved. When the degenerated disc compresses or irritates the nearby spinal nerves, radiating pain can be felt in the buttocks, hips, legs and feet (lumbar disc degeneration); or in the shoudler, arm and hand (cervical disc degeneration). Individuals with disc problems can also experience muscle tightness or muscle spasms.
It is not uncommon to see degenerative changes in the spinal imaging of patients over 60 years old. Majority of these patients will not present with symptoms.These imaging findings must be interpreted in the context of the patient’s clinical condition.
Treatment Options for Degenerative Disc Disease
Nonsurgical Treatments Options
Majority of patients who develop symptoms from degenerative disc disease respond well to conservative treatments without the need for surgical intervention.
- Medications: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS) decrease the symptoms of pain and inflammation associated with this condition. Analgesic medications or muscle relaxants can be helpful when the symptoms are severe. Medications to decrease nerve-related pain, called “sciatica” in the lumbar spine, can also be beneficial.
- Physical Therapy: Therapeutic exercises to strengthen the supporting muscles, improve spinal alignment, flexibility and stability, are critical in healing the spine. A physical therapist can help teach proper exercises and educate on activity modifications to help prevent recurrence of symptoms and injuries.
- Regenerative Treatments: These are innovative, non-surgical treatments using cells from your own body to heal and repair orthopedic conditions. These cell therapies, called Platelet-rich plasma and Cell-based Therapies derived from Bone Marrow, have been shown to help treat spinal conditions and provide long-term relief.
Surgical Treatment Options
Surgery is an option when all conservative treatment options have failed, when there is severe, debilitating pain that interferes with daily function, or when there is worsening neurologic function. These surgeries may involve the removal of a bulging portion of the disc (discectomy), removal of a portion of the bone in the spinal canal (laminectomy), replacing the degenerated disc with an artificial disc, or spinal fusion.
For help with your back pain and degenerative disc disease, please contact the experts at San Diego Orthobiologics Medical Center.
Regenerative Therapy for Chronic Back Pain
Low back pain is the fifth most common reason a patient visits their doctor. More than 90% of the population will experience at least one episode of low back pain during their lifetime. The social and economic impact of low back pain is significant and it is responsible for about 40% of missed work days in the US.
Causes of Back Pain
There are many different causes for low back pain. The pain can be acute or chronic in nature and may originate from an injury or degenerated tissues in the spine. Common causes of low back pain include:
- Back strain: This occurs when the spine is subjected to physical stress that is greater than what can be supported by the muscular and ligamentous structures. Repeated heavy lifting or sudden awkward movements can cause over-stretching or tearing of the ligaments, tendons or muscles in the spine causing pain.
- Arthritis. Osteoarthritis of the spine can lead to degeneration that is associated with the normal wear and tear of joints, discs and bones in the spine as people age. The arthritis can lead to bone spurs which result in narrowing of the space around the spinal nerves and spinal cord; a condition called spinal stenosis.
- Facet joint dysfunction: The spinal column consists of individual bones called vertebrae. They connect to one another at each level by two small facet joints. The joints promote movement and stability between the vertebral bodies. Pain occurs when the joints get inflamed or when the cartilage in the joints becomes injured or worn out.
- Bulging or Ruptured Disc: The discs are soft, gel filled structures that act as cushion or shock absorbers between the vertebral bones in your spine. The disc also connects the adjacent vertebrae together with strong fibrous tissue. When these discs become injured, they can bulge or the gel slips out and can put pressure on neighboring nerves causing pain. As people age, discs lose their hydration and wear down leading to degeneration. Degenerative discs can develop tears and collapse which causes low back pain, muscle spasm or spinal stenosis.
There are many other causes of low back pain including nerve and spinal cord problems, scoliosis, fracture and non-spine sources like tumor and kidney stones. It is important that your physician perform a comprehensive evaluation of your medical history and physical examination to give you an appropriate diagnosis for your back pain.
Non-Surgical Options for Back Pain Relief
There are hundreds of different forms of treatment for lower back pain, however no single treatment stands out as superior to any of the others. When conservative treatments fail to relieve pain, your doctor may feel compelled to consider surgery, however, the success rate of surgery is less than 60% for most causes of lower back pain and involves significant risk and recovery time. Fortunately, there are innovative, minimally invasive treatments available.
Advanced regenerative therapy may be the best solution for your back. These advanced treatments can help you heal faster. They avoid the risks and long-term complications associated with surgery and reduce pain to help you maintain an active lifestyle.
- Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) therapy concentrates platelets, plasma and other substances found in your blood to create a customized healing treatment for degenerative facet joints, discs and nerve pain.
- Bone Marrow Aspiration Concentrate (BMAC) utilizes your own bone marrow which contains a rich reservoir of regenerative cells, multipotent stem cells and anti-inflammatory molecules designed to stimulate your body’s ability to improve circulation, decrease inflammation and regenerate tissues. This regenerative therapy can be used for disc tears, disc degeneration and facet joint arthritis.
- Master Protease Inhibitor (A2M) uses a natural substance found in your blood (Alpha 2 Macroglobulin) to stop the progression of joint degeneration and improve pain and inflammation in arthritic joints.
- Prolotherapy: Sugar containing medications that help regenerate tissue and relieve pain are injected into injured ligaments, tendons or joints to strengthen and improve stability in patients with osteoarthritis, ligament sprains, sacroiliac joint dysfunction and sports-related injuries.
Patients who have failed standard treatments or are seeking alternatives to spine surgery for neck and back pain should consider regenerative therapies. The research on the use of these therapies for certain conditions of the spine is very promising. However, much more research still needs to be completed. The doctors of San Diego Orthobiologics Medical Group contribute to advancing the science by participating in clinical trials and publishing articles on regenerative therapies for spine and other orthopedic conditions.
Advances in regenerative medicine offer new hope for long-term pain relief and improved quality of life.
San Diego Orthobiologics Medical Group is a leader in regenerative medicine therapies and offers a great variety of treatment options depending upon each patient’s unique needs. With decades of experience in the field of minimally invasive interventional treatments, Drs. Christopher J. Rogers and Mary A. Ambach are experts in the field of regenerative medicine. They serve as faculty members and lecturers at national and international medical conferences and serve on the board of directors for several national regenerative medicine organizations.