Millions of Americans complain of back pain on a regular basis. This condition is so common that many people view it as a normal part of aging. Temporary back pain after a hard day’s work or poor night’s sleep is one thing. Chronic pain of any kind is an indicator of an underlying problem. If you’ve been living with back or neck pain for more than a couple of weeks, we first want you to know that back pain in itself is not the problem. It is a sign that something structural may be happening. In most cases, the structural problems that cause back and neck pain can be managed without surgery. With this idea out of the way, we will discuss some of the signs that you might benefit from a thorough spinal examination.
Chronic Dull Back Pain
We have this tendency to associate our severity of discomfort with the severity of the underlying problem. This can be a dangerous mistake. Back pain doesn’t have to be severe for you to need medical care. Pain that persists beyond about 10 days, or that recurs frequently, could be an indicator of a problem like disc degeneration. It may also be a simple symptom or poor posture. Seeing a doctor about the condition and having proper examinations and tests conducted, you can gain clarity about the cause of your pain and a plan for reducing it or eliminating it altogether.
Sharp Back Pain
Sharp back pain may be viewed as more serious than dull back pain. It may not be. In many cases, we see sharp or shooting back pain as a symptom of nerve compression. The spinal column has openings in between every pair of vertebrae. Nerves travel from the spinal cord, through these openings, and into the body. If a nerve is compressed, it may send pain signals down its path. So, sharp back pain may also include sensations like shooting pain down an arm or a leg. Sensations of tingling and numbness may also occur if a nerve is compressed. A spinal specialist can discuss ways to free the compressed nerve. Nonsurgical solutions are always considered first.
Neck Pain that Limits Range of Motion
Limited range of motion in the neck could restrict side-to-side movements. It may make sleeping uncomfortable, or make it difficult to look up or down without pain. Like shooting pain, limited range of motion in the neck could originate with a compressed nerve somewhere in the cervical spine. Sometimes, the problem dates back to an old injury. Sometimes it is a symptom of poor posture. The first step is to find the cause of painful movements and then to free the compressed nerve, if that is the problem that is identified.
Changes in Gait
When your low back hurts, you may walk differently. You may unconsciously lean forward or to one side when standing or walking. This is the body’s natural way of compensating for the discomfort that has occurred; it’s way of protecting the injured area. However, a change in gait places excessive stress on other parts of the spine or body, including the hips or knees. If pain or limited range of motion affects posture or gait, it is imperative to receive proper care to avoid secondary problems.
Princeton Neurological Surgery has five convenient locations throughout NJ. Contact our Hamilton office at (609) 890-3400, or reach out here to schedule a visit in Bridgewater, Morristown, Union, or Paramus.