Currently, back pain is very frequent among people of all ages, but in many cases, it is not clear what exactly causes it. Depending on its cause, it is usually classified into 2 types: mechanical back pain and inflammatory back pain. They are the most frequent. However, there are other less frequent causes that may also be associated with back pain. We can mention infections, kidney or digestive diseases, polymyalgia rheumatica and, exceptionally, tumours.
Mechanical back pain
The most frequent type of back pain is the mechanic. People who suffer from it usually refer to it as a “throbbing” pain (characterized by rhythmic pulsations). Often, this type of pain gets worse with movement and diminishes with rest.
Mechanical back pain can affect people´s life deeply and its cause is usually a muscle strain or trauma. Nevertheless, it is important to obtain the correct diagnosis as soon as possible.
Frequent causes of mechanical back pain
-Distress or lumbar sprain: It is originated most of the times by a muscle injury. The injury can occur, for instance, when lifting an object in bad posture, when lifting a heavy object or during sports trauma.
-Degenerative disc disease.
-Arthrosis of the spine.
Inflammatory back pain
In approximately 1 of 20 people with chronic back pain, the pain is of inflammatory origin. This can potentially affect the quality of life in many ways.
This type of pain is often confused with mechanical pain. There are many diseases that can cause inflammatory back pain, some of which are difficult to diagnose. Fortunately, the scientific advances of the last 10 years have achieved that these diseases are better identified and treated.
A timely diagnosis is important because some of the causes of back pain can get worse if they are not treated at the right time. Exercise or pain medications may temporarily relieve symptoms, but it is still important to see a doctor to establish a correct diagnosis and a long-term management plan.
Characteristics of the inflammatory back pain
-It appears at young ages, usually before age 40.
-The pain has a gradual beginning.
-The symptoms of inflammatory back pain improve with activity/exercise.
-The pain does not improve with rest.
-Night pain that usually makes you wake up in the second half of the night, forcing you to get up.
-Morning stiffness when getting up in the morning that lasts more than 30 minutes.
-Pain that can last more than 3 months.
-Alternate pain in the buttocks.
What are the causes of inflammatory back pain?
Diseases such as cancer and vertebral infections can cause chronic back pain due to inflammation, but most cases of inflammatory back pain are due to certain autoimmune diseases. These occur when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy body tissue. Some diseases of this type that are closely related to back pain are axial spondyloarthritis without radiological signs, ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis and Reiter’s syndrome.
It is important to identify and diagnose inflammatory back pain to properly manage it.
At the London Spine Unit, Harley Street Hospital we have some of the best specialists to diagnose and treat your back pain. If you want to read more about this topic click here.