Back and Neck Pain

What is back and neck pain?

Back pain can range from a mild,
dull, annoying ache, to persistent, severe, disabling pain. Pain in your back can limit
your ability to move. It can interfere with normal functioning and quality of life.
Always talk with your healthcare provider if you have persistent pain.

Neck pain occurs in the area of the
cervical vertebrae in your neck. Because of its location and range of motion, your neck
is often left unprotected and at risk for injury.

Pain in your back or neck area can
come on suddenly and intensely. Chronic pain lasts for weeks, months, or even years. The
pain can be constant or come and go.

What are the symptoms of back and neck pain?

Symptoms linked to back pain may
include:

  • Dull, burning, or sharp pain in your
    back.  The pain can be limited to a single spot or cover a large area.
  • Leg numbness or tingling above or below your knee
  • Stiffness or aching that occurs
    anywhere along your spine from your neck to your tailbone
  • Sharp, shooting pain that spreads from your low back to your buttocks, down the back of  your thigh, and into your calf and toes
  • Consistent ache in the middle or lower
    part of your back, especially after standing or sitting for a long period

Loss of bladder and bowel control,
with weakness in both legs, are symptoms of a serious condition that needs medical
attention right away.

Symptoms linked to neck pain can
be:

  • Arm numbness or tingling
  • Headaches
  • Shoulder pain
  • Sharp shooting pain or a dull ache in your neck

Pain that occurs suddenly in your
back or neck from an injury ia acute pain. Acute pain comes on quickly and may leave
sooner than chronic back or neck pain. This type of pain should not last more than 6
weeks.

Pain that may come on quickly or
slowly and lingers for 3 months or greater is chronic pain. Chronic pain is less common
than acute pain.

How are back and neck pain diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask
about your health history and do a physical exam. He or she may also do X-rays of the
affected areas, as well as an MRI. This allows a more complete view.  The MRI also makes
pictures of soft tissues such as ligaments, tendons, and blood vessels. The MRI can help
spot infection, tumor, inflammation, or pressure on your nerve. Sometimes a blood test
may help diagnose arthritis, a condition that can cause back and neck pain.

How are back and neck pain treated?

In many cases, acute back or neck
pain may simply improve with some rest. Over-the-counter medicines such as acetaminophen
or ibuprofen may also help with the discomfort. Try to move gently during this period,
so that you won’t become stiff and lose mobility.

If you have chronic pain of your
back and neck, try several remedies before considering surgery. These include:

  • Hot or cold packs as advised by your
    healthcare provider
  • Certain exercises to strengthen
    muscles and ease pain, such as stretching and flexing. Your healthcare provider can
    show you these exercises. Physical therapy can also help you find the correct
    exercises.
  • Aerobic exercise may help with your
    overall fitness and strength
  • Certain anti-inflammatory medicines or
    muscle relaxants may be used, as advised by your provider
  • Braces or corsets for extra support
  • Shots (injections) for pain relief in
    the area
  • Nerve block. This eases pain signals
    from  the affected nerve.
  • Acupuncture
  • Osteopathic manipulation


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