Steps to Take If There’s a Burning Sensation in Your Back

what does it mean when your back burns

In some cases, back pain is nothing more than a temporary inconvenience. This is especially true if your discomfort is limited to intermittent twinges, dull aches, or something aggravated by certain movements you can usually avoid or modify. However, when your back pain feels like it’s burning, it can be hard to ignore. Often accompanied by tingling or numbness, burning sensations aren’t all that common. Still, it’s a kind of pain that’s going to need some attention, though likely not severe enough to require spine surgery. Santa Monica spinal surgeons share some tips on what you can do to ease your discomfort.

Determine the Source of Your Burning Pain

No treatment for burning sensations will provide lasting relief until the source of your pain is determined. Burning pain is often caused by damage or irritation to a single nerve, as is often the case with a pinched nerve. The term “burning pain” itself encompasses several different types of sensations. For instance, some patients may have warm sensations in their back while others will feel burning accompanied by tingling, itching, or numbness. Possible sources of this type of discomfort include:

  • Herniated or slipped discs (spondylolisthesis)
  • Spinal cord compression
  • Infection affecting the spine or nearby nerves
  • Multiple sclerosis, diabetes, and other underlying conditions
  • Shingles

Seek Treatments for Burning Sensations

How you treat burning sensations will depend on what seems to trigger the pain. If it’s something you experience first thing in the morning when waking up, doing some light stretches or simply getting up and moving around may be enough to make it go away. With burning pain that’s not persistent or disruptive enough to keep you from carrying out your daily activities, periodic monitoring of symptoms may be all that’s recommended.

Burning sensations may also be felt as prickling sensations that come on without warning (paresthesia). With pain of this nature, you may respond well to conservative remedies similar to what’s typically used to manage radiating nerve pain, including:

  • Light exercise
  • Massage therapy to increase circulation
  • Gentle stretching
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to ease nerve irritation

Prevent or Minimize Burning Pain

Staying hydrated throughout your day can make tissues healthier and less susceptible to inflammation that further irritates nerves and causes burning sensations. Foods rich in vitamins B12 and C and omega-3 fatty acids may also be beneficial. Stay away from artificial sweeteners, preservatives, sugar-filled snacks, and beverages that may elevate blood sugar levels and trigger burning pain near your spine.

The thirty-one pairs of spinal nerves may be permanently or temporarily affected by damage that results in burning sensations. Most people experience such pain coupled with other symptoms. The degree of relief you gain from treatments will depend on the source and duration of the discomfort. If burning pain comes on suddenly or is accompanied by leg weakness, loss of bladder control, and other severe symptoms, seek immediate medical attention. Even if this isn’t the case, seeking treatment sooner rather than later may make it easier to manage your pain.

Though a burning sensation in your back from time to time may not be cause for concern, chronic back pain can significantly affect your quality of life. Luckily, there are ways to address serious back pain issues. At The Spine Institute Center, we specialize in a wide variety of spinal procedures, including fusion surgery and lumbar disc replacement. Santa Monica patients can rely on Dr. Hyun Bae and his team of expert surgeons to diagnose the source of their pain and find an effective solution for relief. Call 310-828-7757 today to schedule an in-person evaluation.