LOW BACK, NECK AND THORACIC PAIN

THORACIC PAIN

If you suffer from lower back, thoracic, or neck pain, you are not alone. The back is responsible for a huge percentage of our ability to twist, turn, and lift heavy objects. Though the lower back is most prone to pain, you can also experience pain in your thoracic spine and in your neck.

There are different causes of pain in each area as well as different treatments and therapies. At the Pain Relief Center in Plano, Texas, our pain management specialists have experience and knowledge in treating all kinds of back and spinal pain.

LOWER BACK PAIN:

Most lower back pain is mechanical in nature. This means that over time, the structures of the spine begin to degenerate through normal wear-and-tear. 

Lower back pain is also the most common form of back pain. 

Some of the common causes of mechanical lower back pain include:

  • Sprains and strains account for the majority of lower back pain. Sprains are caused by overstretching or tearing ligaments, and strains are small tears in tendon or muscle. These can occur when you twist or lift something too heavy, or when you overstretch. 
  • Intervertebral disc degeneration is when the rubbery discs that provide a cushion between our vertebrae degrade, allowing bony surfaces to touch.
  • Herniated or ruptured discs occurs when the discs become compressed or bulge outward.
  • Radiculopathy is caused by compression, inflammation, or injury to a nerve root. This can cause pain, numbness, and tingling that travels to other areas of the body. Radiculopathy can result from spinal stenosis, or a herniated or ruptured disc that compresses the nerve root. 
  • Sciatica is a form of radiculopathy which affects the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the body, and travels down the back of the leg. Sciatica can cause a burning, shock-like pain down the back of the leg, sometimes reaching the foot.
  • Spondylolisthesis occurs when a vertebra in the lower spine slips out of place, pinching a nerve.
  • A traumatic injury, such as from playing sports or a car accident can injure tendons, ligaments, or muscle.
  • Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal column that puts pressure on the spinal cord that can cause pain or numbness.
  • Skeletal irregularities include scoliosis, which is a curvature of the spine which usually does not cause pain until middle age, and lordosis, an abnormally accentuated arch in the lower back.

 

LESS COMMON CAUSES OF LOWER BACK PAIN

 

These conditions are far more serious and require immediate medical attention. Some of these causes of lower back pain include:

 

  • Infections can cause lower back pain when they involve the vertebrae.
  • Tumors only begin in the back occasionally. For the most part, tumors in the back are a result of cancer that spreads from other parts of the body.
  • Kidney stones can cause sharp pain in the lower back, usually on one side.

Treatment for Lower Back Pain

Treatment for lower back pain depends on whether the pain is acute, meaning suddenly onset, or chronic, meaning persistent over a long period of time. Most treatment is nonsurgical; surgical treatment is only recommended when there is evidence of nerve damage, or when the cause of the back pain is structural, and there are corrective surgical procedures available. 

Some of the common non-surgical treatments are:

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PHYSICAL THERAPY

that strengthens the core and improves mobility and flexibility is highly effective.

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MEDICATIONS

some of which are over the counter and some of which must be prescribed by a physician, can help alleviate symptoms of lower back pain.

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NERVE BLOCK THERAPIES

relieve chronic pain by blocking nerve conduction from certain areas of the body. Nerve blocks are only as effective as the practitioner who administers them; they must inject precisely the correct nerve.  

 

 

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EPIDURAL STERIOD INJUECTIONS

are a short-term option for treating lower back pain and sciatica associated with inflammation. It is not advisable to rely on these injections for long-term relief.

 

 

Surgical Options for Treating More Serious Causes of Lower Back Pain Are:

  • Spinal laminectomy is a procedure where a surgeon removes bone spurs or any other bony projections.
  • Discectomy or microdiscectomy is the removal of a herniated disc. Microdiscectomy is similar, but the disc is removed through a tiny incision in the back. 
  • Spinal fusion is when the intervertebral disc is removed and the surgeon fuses the vertebrae together through bone grafts and other surgical hardware such as screws. With no friction between bony parts, pain is reduced.
  • Artificial disc replacement is an alternative to spinal fusion in which the damaged intervertebral disc is removed and replaced by a synthetic disc.

THORACIC SPINE PAIN

The thoracic spine is the longest section of the spine, running from the base of the neck down to the abdomen. It connects to the cervical spine at the top and the lumbar spine at the bottom and is the only spinal region attached to the rib cage. 

Thoracic spine pain is not as common as lower back pain or neck pain due to the fact that the thoracic spine is not as mobile as the neck or lower back. 

THE MOST COMMON CAUSES OF THORACIC PAIN ARE:

  • Muscular problems. There are multiple groups of large muscles in the upper and middle back where the thoracic spine is located. These muscle groups are prone to painful strains and or tightness.
  • Joint dysfunction. Joints in the thoracic spine can become painful due to sudden injury or natural degeneration.

TREATMENT FOR THORACIC SPINE PAIN

There are plenty of non-surgical treatments for thoracic spine pain. Some of the early treatment options to try when upper back pain develops:

Over the Counter Medications

can reduce inflammation and thus provide relief from upper back pain. Some of these anti-inflammatory medications are aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, and acetaminophen.

Ice and/or Heat Therapy

Ice can reduce swelling in the first 48 hours, and heat is recommended after the first 48 hours. Some patients find more relief with heat than ice, or vice versa, and in most cases, doctors recommend whichever temperature the patient prefers.

Rest and Activity Modification

If the pain worsens during certain activities, limit those activities, or take a few days off to rest after participating in them. However, too much rest can cause a loss of strength in the back muscles, resulting in more pain.

These treatments are the first line of defense against upper back pain. Physical therapy is also an effective treatment for upper back pain.

Surgery is incredibly rare as a treatment for upper back pain, and is only recommended when the health of the spinal cord or nerve roots is at risk, or if the pain is debilitating and cannot be treated nonsurgically. 

If surgery is chosen to treat thoracic spine pain, the procedure is typically one of the following two:

  • Vertebral augmentation. If a vertebra is damaged and causing thoracic spine pain, the surgeon will inject artificial bone cement into the fracture to stabilize the bone. 
  • Spinal decompression can relieve pressure on a nerve root to prevent worsening damage. In some cases, spinal decompression will be paired with a spinal fusion to stabilize one section of the spine.

Neck Pain

The part of the spine that makes up the neck is the cervical spine. Neck pain or stiffness is incredibly common and isn’t usually serious. However, it can be indicative of a serious injury or illness. 

There are plenty of causes, all of varying seriousness, for neck pain.

Muscle Tension and Strain

This is the most common cause of neck pain and can be due to activities and behaviors such as poor posture, working at a desk for too long without changing position, sleeping with your neck in a bad position, or jerking your neck during exercise.

Injury

The neck is very vulnerable to injury in falls, car accidents, and sports. The tendons and ligaments of the neck may be forced outside of their normal range, causing neck pain.

Heart Attack

Neck pain can be a sign of a heart attack, but it is usually paired with some other sign of a heart attack, such as shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, and arm or jaw pain.

Meningitis

Meningitis is an inflammation of the tissue surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms of meningitis include a stiff neck as well as fever and a headache.

Arthritis

in the neck causes swelling of the joints as well as bone spurs.

Osteoporosis

is a weakening of the bones which can lead to fractures. It is most common in the hands or knees but can happen in the neck as well.

Fibromyalgia

is a condition that causes muscle pain throughout the body, particularly in the neck and shoulder region.

Treatment for Neck Pain

Treatment for neck pain depends on the diagnosis. Your doctor will order imaging tests like X-rays as well as blood tests to determine the source of your neck pain.

Some of the treatments for neck pain are:

  • Ice and heat therapy
  • Exercise, stretching, and physical therapy
  • Pain medication
  • Steroid injections
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Hospital treatment if a heart attack or meningitis is the cause of neck pain

You can also ease neck pain at home by:

  • Avoiding holding your phone between your neck and shoulder
  • Taking over the counter pain medication like ibuprofen
  • Neck exercises
  • Using a special neck pillow for sleeping

TAKE ACTION

The most critical step on the path to recovery is finding a pain management doctor who can address your pain management needs successfully. The Pain Relief Center and its five specialized institutes are dedicated to meeting any and all of a patient’s needs. Located in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Dr. Rodriguez and his friendly staff will help you along the path to recovery.

Our new center in Dallas is part of a nationwide development by Pain Relief Centers, geared to providing individualized and comprehensive healing and pain management services with unprecedented levels of compassion, care, and comfort for each patient.

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