There are different types of back pain. The way that your pain feels, the symptoms you are experiencing and the way that your pain is distributed can all help us find a proper diagnosis. These three types of back pain are the most common:
1. Axial Pain
You may also see axial pain called “mechanical pain.” Axial pain occurs in a specific place in your back. You can point to the source of your pain. Axial pain may be constant, or it may be a type of pain that comes and goes. It may get worse when you are moving when you are in specific positions or when you sit still for too long. It can be sharp and it can be dull. This sort of pain is often the result of a muscle strain in the back.
2. Referred Pain
Referred pain means pain that is felt somewhere away from the injury. (Although it may also be felt at the injury site.) It can move around and it may vary in intensity. You may sometimes feel it as a sharp and searing pain and sometimes as a minor ache. One example of referred pain is pain felt in the back of your thighs and in your glute muscles that is caused by a disc problem up in your spine.
3. Radicular Pain
Radicular pain radiates. This sort of pain travels from an injured or irritated area along nerve pathways. You will often experience radicular pain as a searing or burning pain. It can often be accompanied by weakness or numbness. Common causes of radicular pain include compression, inflammation or injury of a spinal nerve root. Sciatica is a common type of radicular pain that affects the back and legs.
Diagnosing Back Pain
Many different conditions that cause back pain can cause similar symptoms. We work to diagnose the cause of your pain so that we can begin effectively treating it.
Our process begins with your personal and family medical history. We will look there for incidents and background information that can provide an explanation of your current back issues.
We’ll listen while you describe your symptoms, including the triggers that you have noticed make your symptoms worse. We will conduct a physical examination to learn more about your pain levels, range of movement, and other issues.
When necessary, we will also order blood and imaging tests that can provide more information about the cause of your pain. Blood tests can sometimes be useful for confirming types of arthritis. Imaging tests such as X-rays and MRIs can allow us to get a better look at the affected area.
Using these tools, we will work with you to find the source of your pain and create a treatment plan to alleviate it.
When to See a Specialist
It can be hard to decide when back pain is something that will go away on its own and when it’s a serious issue that requires professional help. Back pain caused by herniated discs, for instance, can be acute in the first couple of days but become less intense as the injury heals.
If you have pain that recurs or that lasts longer than a few days or weeks, a professional examination can give you more information about the cause of your pain and the best ways to treat it.
It is especially important to seek professional care if you experience symptoms that include weakness, loss of bladder or bowel control or numbness. It is also important to seek treatment for pain that is severe enough to prevent you from working or going to school or that keeps you up at night.
In some cases, a chronic condition can get worse over time if the underlying cause is not treated. Seeking treatment early can prevent back problems from getting worse or even reverse them.
Back pain can have many different causes. Sometimes, different conditions will cause similar symptoms. By having your symptoms assessed by a trained professional, you can stop pain in its tracks and regain your active life.