Recurrent back pain, also known as chronic back pain, refers to pain that lasts longer than three months. During that time, your pain may come-and-go or turn into a constant problem that pervades your daily life.
Chronic back pain is the most common cause of disability in people younger than 45 years. But you can forge a path toward better health and overcome back pain with care from the exceptional team at Prolete Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine in Milford, Connecticut.
If you have recurrent back pain, don’t wait to seek help. We create an individualized treatment plan that gently yet progressively eases your pain and restores wellness. Keep reading to learn more about five common causes of chronic back pain.
1 Disc degeneration
The discs between your vertebrae support spinal movement while maintaining stability. However, these discs naturally degenerate as you get older, leading to two conditions that frequently cause recurrent back pain, herniated discs and degenerative disc disease:
Daily wear and tear weakens the outside of the disc, allowing the inner gel-like substance to bulge out. When the weak area ruptures and the gel leaks out, you have a herniated disc.
Bulging discs are notorious for pressing against nerves, causing back pain as well as pain and tingling that travel down your legs and into your feet. Sciatica is the most common example of radiating leg pain due to a pinched spinal nerve.
Once the inner gel leaves the disc, it causes inflammation and nerve pain. Eventually, the disc collapses and your spine becomes unstable, which adds to your back pain.
Degenerative disc disease
Your spinal discs dehydrate over time. You end up with recurrent back pain as the discs thin out and collapse. These changes result in compressed nerves, bone spurs, and spinal instability.
2 Spinal arthritis
Like other joints in your body, the joints that connect your vertebrae, called facet joints, can develop osteoarthritis. As cartilage covering the joint breaks down, the vertebrae rub together and bone spurs develop, causing recurrent back pain, inflammation, stiffness, and bone damage.
Another type of inflammatory arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, also affects the facet joints and causes 4-5% of all cases of chronic low back pain. Without treatment, the ongoing inflammation triggers bone growth that fuses the vertebrae together.
3 Spinal stenosis
Spinal stenosis refers to narrowing of the spinal canal, the opening in the center of your vertebrae that protects the spinal cord. The opening narrows when spine conditions protrude into the canal.
The conditions responsible for spinal stenosis include:
- Herniated discs
- Degenerative disc disease
- Thickened ligaments
- Slipped vertebrae
- Bone spurs
These conditions lead to chronic pain in your back and often cause pinched nerves that send pain shooting down your legs.
4 Improper posture and body mechanics
Your bones, joints, and muscles are aligned in a way that balances your body and maintains normal alignment. When you have good posture, you keep your body aligned. As a result, you can stay active while placing minimal stress on your muscles and bones.
Poor posture throws you off balance, which significantly increases the stress placed on the ligaments and muscles supporting your spine. Then you end up with recurrent back pain due to sprains, strains, and damaged discs.
5 Slipped vertebra
A slipped vertebra, called spondylolisthesis, occurs when a vertebra slips forward and lands on the next vertebra in your spine. You may develop spondylolisthesis as a result of degenerative changes (arthritis and disc degeneration) that cause spinal instability.
Spondylolisthesis also frequently occurs in athletes when repetitive movements or a traumatic injury fractures part of the vertebra or facet joint. Though not as common, a spinal tumor or infection may also lead to a slipped vertebra.
Physical therapy eases back pain
No matter what causes your recurrent back pain, physical therapy forms the foundation of your treatment. The American College of Physicians recommends that the first line of treatment for chronic low back pain should include exercise and rehabilitation.
When it comes to recurrent back pain, physical therapy achieves better results than medications or other conventional treatments. The reason is simple: Exercise (and other physical therapy modalities) boosts circulation, reduces inflammation, restores strength to the supporting structures, and promotes healing in the discs, ligaments, and muscles.
You can directly access physical therapy without getting a referral from a doctor. During your first appointment, we perform a comprehensive exam to determine the cause of your chronic back pain. If we discover any condition that needs medical care beyond physical therapy, we let you know and help you find the best treatment.
Relief from recurrent back pain is possible when you work with the experts at Prolete Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine. To schedule a consultation, call or book an appointment online today.