Back pain is common and can be recurrent, with most people experiencing back pain at some stage during their life. In some instances, back pain can be debilitating and cause unnecessary suffering. It can be considered either mechanical, neuropathic, or sometimes a combination of both.
Sciatica is the neuropathic pain in a nerve or nerve root in the thigh, leg or foot. Sciatica can cause multiple symptoms, including lower back pain, hip pain, burning or tingling throughout the leg, weakness of the leg or foot or shooting pain, particularly when standing. Pain will vary from each person depending on where the nerve is affected. It is important to seek medical attention if you experience more serious symptoms of sciatica, such as numbness of the upper thighs or lack of bladder and bowel control.
It is important to note that scans do not show pain – pain is often not associated with changes on scans, nor are those changes the source of the pain.
Pain present for less than six weeks is known as acute back pain. This type of back pain can often be caused by excessive sitting or standing, lifting heavy objects, an acquired injury, bowel problems, endometriosis or muscle weakness. If you are suffering from acute back pain, your first port of call will be your general practitioner or the emergency department.
If pain has been present for more than three months, it is considered to be chronic back pain. It should be noted that acute and chronic do not relate to the amount of pain felt by a patient. Instead, the terms are used to differentiate the timeframe the pain has been felt for.
There are numerous potential causes for both chronic back pain and sciatica, such as:
- Facet joint disease
- Spinal Canal Stenosis
- Nerve root compression
- Disc disease
- Sacroiliac Joint disease
- Soft Tissue injury and deconditioning
- Degeneration or Spondylosis
While the exact cause of pain can sometimes not be identified, there is no need to worry, there are still effective treatments and pain management options available.
Signs and Symptoms
Pain can be felt in various areas throughout the body, not just in the back. This includes in the buttocks, groin, abdomen, thigh, leg or foot.
Symptoms of back pain include stiffness or aching of the spine, sharp pain or muscle spasms. Pain can be felt in the neck, upper, middle or lower back. This will vary depending on the cause of the pain and where the nerve is affected. Back pain can often be made worse by simple household duties, such as lifting heavy items, sitting or standing for extended periods of time, or even coughing and sneezing.
Patients should note if they experience any associated muscle weakness or abnormalities of bladder and bowel sensation or function. These symptoms are considered more serious and may have a different cause.
Knowing your symptoms helps to find the underlying cause of the pain and select the best treatment and pain management.
Acute back pain (present for less than 6 weeks) can often be managed through the use of painkillers and maintaining your usual daily activity. Regular exercise and stretching can help to prevent further back pain. It is important you are careful when lifting heavy objects, in order to avoid back injuries.
QPain specialists are able to help when back pain becomes chronic and too severe to live with. QPain can diagnose your pain and create a personalised treatment for you.
Back pain treatment may include:
- Procedural treatments:
- Non-surgical treatment and minimally invasive surgery.
- Epidural steroid injection or nerve root injection can often relieve sciatica pain and help with a diagnosis.
- Radiofrequency neurotomy or spinal cord stimulation procedures can help cases of recurring back or leg pain.
- Referrals to spinal surgeons can be made if invasive procedures such as spinal surgery are needed.
The best solution is often a combination of all treatments, and can be termed multimodal or multidisciplinary treatment. QPain specialists can also help to improve quality of life and function by arranging a pain management program for you. If you think you will benefit from a pain management program, get in contact with QPain’s pain specialists today.