Back Pain Types And Self-Assessment
Do you suffer from back pain?
If so, you’re not alone - 80% of us will suffer from some form of back pain at some point in our lives.
Back pain can be debilitation and painful, but it doesn’t have to become a permanent part of our lives. Stand up to pain! The most successful way to recover and heal from back pain is to look at the underlying cause of your pain.
There are two main types of back pain: mechanical and inflammatory. Symptoms for both types can be similar, but it is imperative to determine which type you have, as they require different treatments.
Mechanical Back Pain
Mechanical pain arises when the normal body tissue is met with abnormal stress (meaning overuse, underuse, strain, etc.), or abnormal tissue is met with abnormal stress. When this occurs, pain is the result. Once the mechanical stimulus is removed, the pain subsides.
Examples of mechanical pain causing scenarios are:
- Rigorous landscaping for hours that is beyond your typical or everyday exertion
- Sitting in the car on a extended road trip, forcing the body to remain in the same position for extended hours at a time
- Working at a computer for too many hours without breaks to physically move and adjust the body
Inflammatory Back Pain
Inflammatory pain, on the other hand, does not subside quickly and if left untreated, can damage your spine, or be a symptom of other serious diagnoses. Inflammatory back pain may be caused or aggravated by a mechanical stimulus and the body’s inflammatory responses kick in to initiate healing and may become a chronic issue.
Take the Self-Assessment
Treatment starts with an assessment, which you can start yourself. Answer the following questions to help determine which type of pain you are experiencing.
- Did your back pain begin before the age of 35?
- Has your pain persisted for more than 3 months without much relief?
- Did your pain come on gradually over time without a particular cause or injury?
- Is your back pain worse before bed and upon waking?
- Does your pain tend to decrease with physical activity and exercise?
- Do over the counter medications (Advil, Tylenol, Ibuprofen, etc) effectively relieve pain?
- Does your pain shift around from one side to the other side?
- Do you have pain or tenderness in your heels, knees and/or ribs?
- Are you or have you been experiencing a gradual decrease of movement or flexibility in your hips or lower back over time?
Mostly YES: It is likely that your pain is inflammatory. You should seek out care with your primary care physician. A common but serious condition called Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) could be the culprit. With this condition, the immune system overreacts and inflames the healthy tissues in the body, and the sooner you are diagnosed, the better.
Mostly NO: It is likely that your pain is mechanical. Mechanical pain can be described as muscle tension and stiffness, weakness in legs and feet, a tingling or burning feeling that can travel down into the buttocks and legs, and/or a throbbing or aching feeling.
Mechanical back pain is typically the result of bad habits and can be treated with help from a chiropractor to better assess root causes.