Thank you to those who came out to our seminar "New Advances in Back Pain Treatment" tonight in Tulsa. We appreciate your questions and willingness to take part in your own health care.
One of the questions that came up tonight was how do we know what causes back pain. While there are many different causes of back pain, most can be lumped into to groups--pain involving either the soft tissues or bone.
Pain from soft tissues can be due to muscle problems (spasm, strain, etc), intervertebral disc problems (disc tears, herniations, etc) and nerves (compression, nerve irritation, etc). Bone problems are usually due to arthritis (spondylosis, facet arthritis, etc) or fracture (vertebral compression fractures, etc).
Sometimes back pain is causes by both soft tissue and bone problems. It's important to remember that back pain can be caused by referred pain. When pain occurs because of disease in one area, but feels like it is in another, this is called referred pain. For example, back pain can be caused by arthritis in the hip or pain from the internal organs of the pelvis and abdomen.
Since there are so many different causes of chronic back pain, it's important to see a qualified physician who is skilled in the diagnosis and treatment of back pain. Only by reviewing your history and physical examination can a physician accurately determine the cause of your pain. Even then it usually takes imaging studies (such as x-rays and MRI) to confirm before effective treatment can begin.