Feeling the Pain: 5 Pro Tips for Identifying Back Pain
Does your back hurt?
Nearly 65 million Americans have reported a recent episode of back pain. So, you aren’t alone!
But, what’s causing your discomfort?
Identifying back pain can be the first step toward feeling better! Follow these five tips to figure out what’s really going on with your back and determine how you should proceed.
1. Determine the Source
Where is your pain coming from – your upper, middle, or lower back?
Sometimes referred to as the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine, these three regions experience different types of back pain. And, knowing where your pain is coming from can tell you a lot about how serious it is!
For example, pain in the cervical spine and neck is often caused by poor posture. Upper middle back pain, on the other hand, is more commonly caused by muscle irritation or dysfunction in the shoulder joint. The lower back is the most commonly injured, typically while bending or twisting.
Once you’ve decided whether you’re feeling upper, middle, or lower back pain, you can then determine whether your symptoms are related to nerves, muscles, or your skeletal system.
2. Identify the Type of Pain
There are numerous types of back pain stemming from an injury, regular wear and tear, poor posture, spinal issues, nerve irritation or damage, and more.
To better determine the cause of your pain, you’ll first have to identify exactly what you are feeling.
Is there a sensation of tightness or a sudden stabbing when you bend or twist? This is most likely muscle pain.
Or, do you instead feel pain when you use one specific joint or when your spine is in a specific position? This could be related to your bones.
Nerve pain often causes strange burning and tingling sensations that spreads to other limbs. But, it can also feel like shooting, stabbing, or radiating discomfort.
Which kind of pain you are feeling will also determine what home treatments might help.
3. Retrace Your Steps
Do you remember injuring yourself? Did you have any kind of a recent accident?
Even if it seemed like a minor event at the time, the smallest of wrong moves could lead to a pinched nerve or muscle injury. And, knowing how you hurt yourself can provide vital insight into which treatments might help.
If you don’t recall any specific event, it could be that poor posture is to blame. If you’ve been sitting a lot at work, consider your office chair. And, think about how much lifting, bending, or twisting, you’ve been doing lately.
Have you started a new workout routine or added new physical activities to your lifestyle? Think about whether you’ve been dedicating enough time to warmups and cooldowns.
It’s also important to consider whether your back pain started suddenly, or instead became more and more severe over the course of time. This can indicate whether you’re experiencing an injury, discomfort associated with wear and tear, or even an undiagnosed congenital condition.
4. Try a Few Home Remedies
Different kinds of back pain respond to different treatments.
For upper back pain treatment, start with a few simple steps like hot and cold packs, a topical analgesic or pain-relieving cream, and an over the counter NSAID. Try to resume your normal activities as soon as possible, but beware of returning to bad habits like poor posture.
Middle back pain is more frequently caused by a serious underlying condition. If you have recently suffered an injury or felt a sudden pain in your middle back, you should go directly to a doctor. Because this part of the spine is connected to the ribs that protect your lungs and heart, damage in this region can affect your cardiopulmonary system as well.
If the pain is moderate and unrelated to an injury, you can try similar treatments to those used for upper back pain.
Lower back pain is the most commonly reported and may respond to a variety of treatments. You’ll likely need to use the same methods for treating upper and middle back pain, plus a bit of gentle stretching and changes to your posture and daily activities.
Follow this link for more info on lumbar pain and how to stop it.
No matter what kind of back pain you’re experiencing, bed rest is not the answer. Inactivity can cause your muscles to tighten further, or continue putting pressure on the bones and nerves causing you to suffer. Keep engaging in gentle exercise and light activities to feel better faster!
5. Know When to Get Help
No matter which of these back pain types you are experiencing, it’s important to know when to see a doctor.
If your pain has persisted beyond a couple of weeks, is severe and not improving with rest, spreads down one or both legs, causes weakness numbness or tingling, or is accompanied by sudden weight loss – it’s time to see a professional.
Some of the causes of chronic back pain can also lead to permanent and debilitating conditions. So, it’s best not to wait too long before you get help.
You should also seek immediate medical treatment if your back pain is accompanied by a fever, new bowel or bladder problems, or has developed following a fall, blow to your back, or another injury.
Identifying Back Pain – and Treating It
Using these five tips for identifying back pain, you should be able to get to the root of your discomfort and decide how to proceed.
Remember, back pain that doesn’t resolve itself in a few weeks or respond to at-home treatments will probably require a trip to the doctor. If your symptoms are chronic or showing no improvement, don’t put the trip off for too long, and wind up in additional discomfort!
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