By Dr. Sanjay Sharma, Pain Management
Spinal pain in the cervical (neck) and the lumbar (lower back) region is very common and often disrupts a person’s daily activities. Although the condition is more prevalent in elderly people, it may affect young adults with an injury or spinal degeneration.
Causes of Spinal Pain-
Usually, lumbar muscle sprains and strains are the reasons why you might feel a debilitating pain down the spine, in your lower back. Spinal pain can also affect the thoracic spine – the region of the spine between the cervical and the lumbar spine. However, since the thoracic spine is much more rigid as compared to the cervical and lumbar spine, it is less likely to sustain injuries.
Here are a few conditions that might lead to spinal pain –
- Ligament or muscle strain
- Ruptured or bulging disks
- An underlying medical condition – arthritis and osteoporosis
- Skeletal irregularities
Lifting heavy objects, sudden or swift movement such as bending or twisting may also cause strain in the cervical and lumbar region.
Symptoms Related to the Condition
Symptoms related to spinal pain include the following –
- Restricted range of motion
- Lower back stiffness
- Inability to maintain correct posture due to pain or stiffness
- Muscle spasm
- Pain that lasts for 10-14 days
- Loss of motor function – ability to heel walk or tiptoes
- Pain that radiates from the spine to the extremities or around the chest wall
The symptoms above can get worse, depending on the severity of the condition. In that case, immediate medical attention is required. A doctor will diagnose the pain and recommend the appropriate line of treatment.
How to Manage Spinal Pain?
In the initial stage of the treatment, your doctor will aim to manage the symptoms of the condition using medications and therapy.
Following diagnosis, the doctor will recommend the following pain medications –
- OTC Pain Relievers – Over-the-counter painkillers and Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs can ease acute back pain. Make sure you take these medicines only as prescribed by the doctor, otherwise overuse of NSAIDs and pain relievers may cause side effects.
- Muscle Relaxants – If OTC painkillers fail to improve mild to moderate pain, the doctor may prescribe muscle relaxants. This helps reduce muscle spasm and discomfort.
- Topical Pain Relievers – You may be given topical creams and ointments to rub on the skin at the pain site. These usually work well, especially for those who are likely to show side effects after taking oral medications.
- Injections – If all other medications fail to improve the spinal pain, or if the pain radiates from the lower back to your legs, your doctor will likely recommend administering cortisone injection at the site surrounding your spinal cord. The injection does help reduce inflammation surrounding the nerve roots, but the effects last for a few months only.
In addition to the above medications, pain management for spinal degeneration also includes physiotherapy. The therapist may resort to techniques like heat and ice therapy, gentle massage, pelvic traction, electrical muscle stimulation, ultrasound, and stretching exercises.
Spinal pain caused due to spinal degeneration or an injury can be difficult to live with. Nevertheless, with proper pain management techniques and medications, you can easily battle the condition and get back to your routine activities.