What is acute back pain?
Chronic back pain is prolonged pain, lasting for months at a time. In contrast, acute back pain is often sharp and sudden. For many people, pain occurs after lifting a heavy object, moving suddenly, sitting for too long, or after an injury. The causes can vary, but there are some common reasons for this pain.
1. Muscle strains, sprains, or tears
Typically, a strain or sprain occurs after putting undue pressure on the back muscles. This often happens when someone tries to lift something that is too heavy or engages in more physical activity than usual, such as while doing yard work. Usually, this pain goes away with rest, hot and cold therapy, and over-the-counter pain relievers.
2. Underlying conditions
Sometimes people experience back pain as the result of an underlying condition. Two of the most common include sciatica and spinal stenosis. Treating these conditions typically involves a combination of medication, physical therapy, and other pain management techniques to reduce symptoms. Many patients experience significant pain relief from regular steroid injections to reduce inflammation.
3. A ruptured disc
Spinal discs act as shock absorbers and prevent the vertebrae in the spine from rubbing against each other. When one of these discs pushes out from between the bones, the disc can press on spinal nerves, causing pain and irritation. Many patients find pain relief from resting, taking pain medication, and possibly going through physical therapy. If these treatments don’t relieve symptoms; however, a spine specialist may recommend a lumbar discectomy.
What happens during lumbar discectomy
During the surgery, the surgeon removes the damaged disc to relieve pressure and pain. The procedure can be performed with a cut in the back or neck. Another version of the surgery, a microdiscectomy, is done with a minimal incision. The surgeon then uses a small camera to see inside the body and removed the herniated disc.
Is surgery right for me?
Not all patients with herniated discs need surgery. However, if the pain is interfering with daily life, not getting better, or if there is numbness or weakness, doctors may recommend discectomy. Patients should also consider surgery if walking or standing is difficult.
When to see the doctor
Low back pain is one of the most common reasons that Americans make an appointment with a healthcare provider. In fact, the reason is second only to going to the doctor for a cold or flu. While back pain is prevalent, if the discomfort lingers for more than 3 weeks, a doctor’s appointment may be needed. Speak with a spine specialist to learn more about back pain, herniated discs, and lumbar discectomy surgery.