The human back is comprised of a number complex structures, including the spine itself and the connecting tissues that support normal spinal function. A system of interconnected nerves transmit signals from various areas of the body to the human brain, and many types of back pain result from undue restriction or compression of one or more nerves. In addition, muscles and other soft tissues play a vital role in supporting movement, posture and all of the many demands placed on the human back. Back pain can result from a variety of sources, including traumatic injury, soft tissue damage, muscle strain, degenerative disease and structural issues within the back.
A certain degree of back pain is normal after heavy exertion or minor injury. However, back pain that does not improve after a short period of rest and the use of over-the-counter pain medications and anti-inflammatory drugs is a cause for concern. Patients who experience severe pain, difficulty moving, ongoing muscle spasms or pain that migrates from one area of the back to another should seek medical evaluation. In many cases, issues that lead to back pain can worsen over time if proper treatment is not obtained in a timely manner. As with so many medical issues, patients should listen to the cues that their body is sending, and seek treatment when they know that something is “off” in regard to normal daily function.
Treatment begins with a thorough physical examination and health history. In some cases, additional testing in the form of various imaging techniques or lab tests may be required. Once the physician has gathered all the necessary information, a diagnosis is made and a treatment plan can be constructed. Treatment is different from one patient to the next but might consist of prescription pain medications, steroid injections or physical therapy. Some patients can receive substantial benefits through modifications of their posture or improvements in the ergonomics within their workplace.
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