Back Pain

Low back pain is experienced in 60-80% of adults at some point in their lifetime and is one of the most common causes of visits to a physician.

When to see a doctor for back pain?

Most back pain gradually improves with home treatment and self-care, If you experience back pain that doesn’t improve or continues or worsens over the course of a few weeks, you should seek an evaluation from your primary care doctor. Early intervention is key to preventing long term back pain. If the pain last more than 3 months, it is considered to be a chronic condition and you should seek a referral to a pain management provider.

In rare cases, back pain can signal a serious medical problem, seek immediate medical attention if your back pain at any point causes the following as these symptoms can be a sign of nerve damage and can be serious if not addressed: 

  • new bowel or bladder control problems,
  • numbness in the groin or rectal area, or leg weakness,
  • follows a fall or injury to your back.
  • These symptoms are a sign of nerve damage and can be irreversible if not treated quickly and appropriately.


What are symptoms of chronic back pain:

  • Muscle ache
  • Shooting or stabbing pain
  • pain the radiates down the leg
  • pain that worsens with bending, lifting, standing or walking
  • pain that improves with reclining


What are common causes of back pain?

Common causes of back pain may include:
• Overuse, prolonged sitting or lying down, sudden awkward movement and excessive lifting can cause back pain
• Muscle spasm or ligament strain can cause back pain
• Bulging or ruptured disks
• Arthritis, degenerative disc disease, congenital spine abnormalities, and tumors can cause back pain
• Spinal stenosis, which is a constriction of the spinal canal, whether congenital or caused by degenerative discs and/or bulging discs can cause back pain.
• Skeletal irregularities, a condition in which your spine curves to the side (scoliosis).
• Disc herniation, extrusion of disc material which compresses the spinal cord or a nerve root
• Spondylolithesis, which is when one vertebra slips forward onto another vertebra immediately below can cause back pain
• Pregnancy can cause back pain – muscles stretch and ligaments and body alignment is affected by a growing fetus
• Infections cause back pain – these are rarely a cause, but bacteria can invade discs, vertebrae or joints causing an infection that can lead to back pain

Common risks factors include:

•Lack of exercise
Excess weight
•Improper lifting
•Psychological conditions

What steps can I take at home to help manage my back pain?

• Rest and restrict activity
•Build muscle strength and flexibility
•Low back pain exercises
• Strength training routines
• Use a pillow under your head, between your knees, and under an upper arm when resting on your side
• Use a pillow under your knees when on your back
• Over-the-counter pain relievers, including NSAID medications (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as Ibuprofen® or Tylenol®
• Use cold immediately after an injury, and then apply heat

What are the alternatives to surgery for my back pain?

There are many non-surgical options available for diagnosing and treating back pain. These include:
• Epidural Steroid injections
• Facet Injections and Radiofrequency Ablation
• Sacroiliac Joint Injections and Radiofrequency Ablation
• Trigger point injections
• Spinal cord stimulation
• Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (low-voltage currents to tissues to help decrease pain)
• Nerve block injections
• Peripheral Nerve Stimulation
• Percutaneous discectomy
• Wide variety of pain medications


For help managing your pain, call the Carolinas Pain Institute to schedule an appointment with one of our pain management specialists.