The different types of back pain you may experience at any given time can be fairly diverse when it comes to symptoms and available treatments. Understanding how back pain is typically defined and characterized can make it easier to communicate what you’re experiencing with your doctor.
Acute Back Pain
Broadly defined as pain that lasts less than 3-6 months, acute back pain is temporary and often goes away with conservative treatments. Ranking only behind cold and flu as the main reason people see a doctor, acute low back is the most common form of acute back pain. The degree of acute pain can vary, although it’s often sharp and sudden. Usually lasting no longer than a few weeks, this type of pain is often caused by:
- Muscle spasms or strains
- Herniated discs
- Spinal curvatures
Chronic Back Pain
The longer acute back pain lasts, the more likely it is that it will be become chronic, defined as pain lasting 4-6 months or more. Chronic back pain often involves some type of nerve compression aggravated by movement or a progressive condition. Chronic back pain can be further categorized as:
- Chronic with an identifiable pain generator: This type of pain is linked to a clear source, as is often the case with conditions such as degenerative disc disease and spinal stenosis.
- Chronic with no identifiable pain generator: This type of pain occurs when a pathway for pain signals is established in the nervous system without corresponding tissue damage; failed back surgery syndrome is an example of this type of pain.
Neuropathic Back Pain
Neuropathic pain, or nerve pain, is different from chronic pain with no identifiable pain generator in that it appears to originate in the nervous system. Nerve blockers in the form of injections or oral medications are often used to treat back pain falling into this category.
Regardless of the type of back pain you may be experiencing, symptoms shouldn’t be ignored. Pain that’s not responding to initial home remedies like a little rest, the use of a heating pad or ice pack, or over-the-counter pain meds should be evaluated by a board-certified back doctor as soon as possible.
If back pain is disrupting your normal routine, it’s time to reach out to The Spine Institute, a leading Los Angeles spine surgery center. Our experienced team of medical professionals can help diagnose the root of your back pain and provide you with all possible options for pain relief. For more information, call (310) 828-7757 and request a consultation.