Common Back Pain Questions
I just injured my back, but it doesn't hurt enough to go to the doctor. What can I do?
We can injure our backs in so many ways: lifting something without using the proper technique, sleeping on an uncomfortable mattress, playing sports, or even just twisting wrong. Most of the time, back pain is caused by a sprain or a strain of the muscles in your back, so one of the best things you can do is give your back time to heal itself.
However, in the mean time, back pain can interfere with your daily life. To deal with the pain, you can try:
- ice and heat: For the first 24 to 48 hours after you hurt your back, use ice to reduce swelling, muscle spasms, and pain. After that, switch to heat, which will help warm and relax sore tissues.
- over-the-counter medications: Tylenol or Advil are good options.
Will I need surgery?
Depending on what is causing your back pain, you may need spine surgery. However, just 5% of patients with back pain actually require surgery. Before recommending surgery, your doctor will most likely have you try other treatment options, such as physical therapy or medication.
What types of surgery are used for back pain?
There are many types of surgery used for back pain because there are many causes of back pain. If you do require surgery, your surgeon will recommend a surgery that's best for your pain. Some common surgeries used for back pain are:
- discectomy: The surgeon will remove part of the intervertebral disc, which could be pressing on your spinal cord or other nerves and causing pain. Sometimes, the surgeon will need to perform a spinal fusion at the same time as the discectomy. The fusion aims to permanently stabilize that area of your spine, but not everyone who has a discectomy will need a fusion.
- foraminotomy: A surgeon uses a foraminotomy to make more room for your nerves that may have gotten compressed and are now causing you back pain. In this procedure, the surgeon will removes the foramen (the area where the nerve roots exit the spinal canal) to increase the size of the nerve pathway.
- laminectomy: This is a procedure for treating spinal stenosis by relieving pressure on the spinal cord. A part of the lamina (a part of the vertebra) is removed or trimmed to widen the spinal canal and create more space for the spinal nerves.
However, this is just a sampling of possible surgeries for back pain. To read about other surgeries, you can read Surgery for Back Pain.