Back Pain

Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention

Back pain is the second most common reason people visit their doctor. In the United States alone, 85 to 90% of people will suffer from back pain at some point in their lives.

Lower back pain is the most common type of chronic pain, and the number of adults experiencing lower back pain (especially over-65) is on the rise.

What is Back Pain?

Back pain is an acute or chronic pain caused by nerve and muscular problems, degenerative disc disease, or arthritis. The term back pain includes lower back pain, middle back pain, upper back pain or low back pain with sciatica.

Lower back pain can appear as:

  • Acute pain – Acute back pain is a brief episode of pain that appears suddenly and can last for a few days or weeks. The pain is a normal response of the body to injury or tissue damage. This type of pain gradually recedes as the body heals.
  • Subacute low back pain – This type of pain lasts between six weeks and three months and depending on its severity, may limit your daily activities.
  • Chronic back pain – Chronic, persistent back pain is the most severe type of low back pain that lasts over three months. The biggest struggle of patients that suffer from chronic back pain is the unresponsiveness to initial treatments because it requires a thorough diagnostic examination. In KKT clinics, our doctors first determine the exact source of pain and then develop an individualized treatment plan.

What Are the Parts of My Back?

Your spine, or backbone, has a very complex and intricate design. Running from the base of the skull to the pelvis, it is made to keep you straight and in an upright position, at the same time giving you enough flexibility to rotate and move side to side. To achieve this, your back has three natural curves that give its “S” shape when viewed from the side, a very complex and intricate design that can go out of sync over time or due to sudden injuries and jolts.

The spine consists of three major components: bones, joints, and discs. The back is made up of 24 bones called vertebrae, which lay upon each other like a stack of coins. The body of the vertebrae is the front, main weight-bearing structure. In between each bone is a rubbery cushion known as a disc, which allows movement and rotation of your back. Each vertebra incorporates two sets of facet joints, one facing upward to connect with the vertebra above and the other pair connecting to the vertebra below. The facet joints provide stability and flexibility, allowing the bones to move against each other without getting damaged. In the center of each vertebra is the spinal canal, the opening through which nerves and the spinal cord travel.

The spinal cord can be thought of as a major highway for signals that go between your brain and the rest of your body. These signals are responsible for controlling your entire body, such as moving your arms and legs, and for sensing things around you, such as touch and temperature. All of this is held together by what is known as “soft tissue”.

There are two types of soft tissues. The first are the muscles and tendons which help in movement and lifting. The second are the ligaments which help the vertebrae stay in perfect alignment so that you can move your back pain-free and protect your spine.

Causes of Back Pain

The most common form of back pain occurs when the bones, disc, or soft tissue are out of place/distressed or misaligned. This can be aggravated by several lifestyle factors such as:

  • Poor posture (slouching at your desk)
  • Sitting and standing for prolonged periods of time
  • Driving long distances
  • Lifting (heavy, too frequently, improperly – includes heavy purses)
  • Pregnancy
  • Smoking
  • Obesity, lack of exercise
  • Injury (car accidents, sudden jolts, falls, etc.)
  • Emotional stress

The most common cause of back pain is due to ligament stretching/tearing or loosening. When this part of your back is damaged, your vertebrae can move out of alignment which causes the spine to wear out over time, resulting in pain and most often, pinched nerves. Restoring the natural position of your back can help in eliminating the pain. KKT has been shown to restore this alignment, as well as stimulate the soft tissues which have been damaged.

Here is a brief list of a few more conditions which can occur if the source of pain isn’t appropriately managed at an early stage:

Herniated Disc – Often times, the disc between your bones may be damaged, torn, or bulge outwards. Without this natural cushion, the two vertebrae can pinch the nerves coming out of the spine, which may lead to back pain or pain in other parts of your body.

Facet Joint Arthropathy – The facet joint is a joint in your spine that gives it flexibility and ability to bend and twist. The facet joints are a set of joints located between each pair of vertebrae, one on each side of the spine. Due to injury, aging, pressure overload (or a combination of all of the above), the facet joint begins to wear down and remodel. Sometimes as the remodeling occurs, it may touch one of the nerves coming out of your back and cause pain. The degeneration of the facet joint itself can also be the source of the pain.

Spondylolisthesis – This condition occurs when one of your vertebrae slips forward over the bone below it and is most common in the lower spine area. Many times, spondylolisthesis squeezes the spinal cord or nerves. The condition often co-occurs with facet joint arthropathy (degeneration). Most common symptoms caused by this condition are back and buttock pain, numbness in the legs and pain that runs from the lower back down to the legs, difficulty walking.

Spinal Stenosis – The condition occurs when the hole where the spinal cord travels through narrows and starts pressuring the spinal cord, causing pain and difficulty walking. Spinal stenosis is most common in the lower back and neck area.

Symptoms of Back Pain

A common cause of back pain is injury to a muscle (strain) or ligament (sprain). Back pain can also result from more-serious injuries, such as a vertebral fracture or ruptured disc; from arthritis and other age-related changes in your spine; and from certain infections, but regardless of the cause, the symptoms are more or less the same.

Symptoms of Back Pain:

  • Persistent, aching pain and stiffness
  • Back pain that travels from the low back to the buttocks, legs, and feet.
  • Sharp, localized pain in the upper and lower back that appears after lifting heavy objects.
  • Severe pain after waking up in the morning.
  • Pain that is worse after prolonged sitting, standing or moving around.

When Should I Worry About My Back Pain?

Even though back pain is very common, it should always be taken seriously. Many times, the conditions described above don’t have any symptoms or can present with only mild ones. However, if it has been quite some time since you’ve first felt persistent back pain, as mild as it is, you should visit your doctor. Just like with every condition, if not treated early, you are at a huge risk of developing complications.

In you notice numbness, tingling, weakness in your groin, or limbs, pain that travels downward along your leg or pain that increases when you cough or bend forward, call your doctor.

Lower back pain is one of the most severe types of chronic pain. In the United States, lower back pain affects the work abilities of over 30% of men and 20% of women. Many people suffering from back pain undergo different treatments such as prescription medications (58%), chiropractic treatment (54%), and physical therapy (48%), but what’s worrying is that only one in ten people find out the primary cause of their pain. So, the questions is, how will you know which treatment is the best for you, if you don’t know the underlying cause of pain?

To find out what may be wrong, and how to best treat the pain, visit your local KKT specialist. At KKT, we provide a complete workup and further advice on both short and long-term management of your condition.

How Can the Doctor Figure Out What is Causing Problem?

Medical History

Your medical history – which includes past injuries, family history and other symptoms –  is the first step in the process of figuring out what may be causing the problem. Other factors such as age, stress, medications, the presence of other chronic conditions (diabetes) or diseases help your doctor make the final diagnosis.  It is important for every patient to openly discuss every medical concern and condition with the doctor.

Examination and Assessment

The doctor will then inspect your back, and depending on your symptoms, may have you perform some maneuvers to see if they can further narrow down the cause of your pain is. Usually, this will consist of checking the strength of your muscles, range of motion, sensations, and pressing on your back to identify the area of discomfort.

Diagnose and Treatment  

Your doctor may request X-rays to get a better look at your bones. He may also want to do an MRI of your back to look for any abnormalities in the soft tissue.

Unfortunately, as a diagnostic method for back pain, MRIs can often be unreliable.  Many people may have completely normal MRIs but feel significant pain, and   those that don’t feel any pain might end up with very abnormal MRIs.

Since KKT specializes in back pain, we have developed some of the most advanced and innovative technology and analytics software for diagnosing and treating the causes of back pain. This gives us more detailed information of possible “hotspots” in your back. This level of analysis is not available in standard clinics and hospitals, which is one of the advantages of going to a specialized spine center for back treatment. The images and information obtained are then used to create a personalized treatment protocol focused on correcting the problem areas in your spine.

Back Pain Treatment Approaches

The major goal for most people with back problems is to get rid of the pain. Prior to the advent of KKT, physicians had very limited options for treating back pain, including:

  • Medications – Doctors mostly prescribed pain medications combined with physical therapy and exercises. Generally, in the past, they would begin with over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol or Paracetamol), Aspirin, and Ibuprofen. If this didn’t work, they would move on to stronger painkillers such as Lyrica, Oxycodone and Hydrocodone. Unfortunately, due to their serious side effects, these types of medications cannot be taken long term.
  • Steroids – If the pain continued to persist, the patient got an injection of medicine or steroids directly into the back. Steroids can cause some serious side effects, so such therapy is limited.

All of these solutions provide temporary relief, but do nothing to treat the underlying problem, and if medications, exercise, and steroids don’t make you feel better, your doctor might tell you that the only thing left is to undergo a surgical procedure.

  • Surgery – Depending on the underlying cause, small number of patients may qualify for surgery. Doctors use surgery as the last option because it comes with some serious health risks, including infections Failed Back Surgery Syndrome, or permanent paralysis.

Fortunately, with the KKT technology, doctors can now address the root cause of many problems without performing surgery. The KKT device helps restore the natural architecture of your spine and research has shown that it can also help restore the discs. By addressing the root cause of the problem, not only will the pain go away, but it will stay away.

Preventing the Return of Back Pain 

To prevent back pain from returning, it is very important to follow the personalized program designed by your KKT specialist. Most often, your pain will go away in a few sessions and so you will start feeling better, but this is just the beginning. Even after the pain has subsided, it is important to finish all your sessions to ensure that your back is completely restored. Otherwise, your back pain can return and it may be more resistant to treatment the next time around.

You should also keep in mind that although the pain may be gone, it doesn’t mean that the problem has been fixed. In fact, when the pain is masked, it causes most people to delay seeking a diagnosis or treatment of the underlying cause of the pain. This is why it is important to see a KKT specialist right away to find out exactly what is going on and treat the cause at its source. This not only helps with pain management, it can also prevent further damage.

If you are concerned about any of the signs and symptoms above, a comprehensive diagnostic assessment by a KKT physician will help to show if you require treatment.

Click here to find your nearest KKT clinic and book an appointment.

 

TESTIMONIAL

My lower back was no longer allowing me to live freely. I would often contemplate over how nice it would be if only I could go back into my youth, carefree and pain free. KKT gave me my life back. The pain I learnt was not due to age. My x-rays showed arthritis and degeneration. It was nice to know however, that we could work at preventing any further degeneration and perhaps even reverse existing damage. I would hope that every single person the world over would have access to KKT.

– Martin Davis.

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