Common Causes of a Common Complaint: Back Pain
One of the most common reasons patients call to schedule appointments at Greater Austin Orthopaedics is back pain. We call back pain whose cause hasn’t been diagnosed “general back pain.” Fortunately, most general back pain dissipates in less than a month. For those experiencing the pain, though, that is a very long month indeed. If your pain is moderate to severe, it’s best to let our specialists evaluate and diagnose the cause to speed your recovery.
Strained Muscles Due to Overexertion
If you embark on an unusually grueling game of tennis or golf, spend a weekend cleaning out your garage or landscaping your yard, or spend hours on a physically taxing project, you’re prone to straining a lumbar muscle or a tendon in your back. Once an orthopedist confirms your back pain is due to a strain, you’ll often be sent home with a prescription for rest, cold therapy, and physical therapy combined with over-the-counter pain medications.
Nestled between the bones in your spine are discs that are insulated with a spongy, gel-like material. The discs act like shock absorbers to prevent bone-on-bone contact. When a disc becomes damaged, the gel-like material inside may seep out rendering that disc ineffective as a cushioning agent between its adjacent vertebrae. Depending on its severity, a herniated disc may cause mild back pain or severe pain and numbness that radiates from the lower back and buttocks all the way down the leg. Treatment for a herniated disc ranges from a combination of pain medications and physical therapy to surgery to prevent permanent nerve damage.
Arguably, this is the most common cause of lower back pain that you’ve probably never heard of. Basically, this condition occurs when one of your vertebra slides over the bone under it. This causes pressure on the nerves that manifests in pain, weakness, or numbness in your lower back and legs. Trauma, infection, arthritis, or a stress fracture caused by overuse are common causes of spondylolisthesis. Gymnastics, weight lifting, and other sports that tax the back muscles may cause spondylolisthesis – even in young children.
If you experience back pain, take comfort in knowing that it is common and usually resolves without requiring surgery or intense medical intervention. However, it is always best to contact us at Greater Austin Orthopaedics to schedule an appointment at one of our South Austin, Southwest Austin, North Austin, and Lockhart sports medicine clinics if your pain is long-lasting, moderate to severe, or interferes with your ability to sleep, walk, or perform daily tasks. In some cases, back pain that is left untreated can lead to serious, irreversible complications. It is always best to err on the side of caution when your spine is involved!