Chances are you or someone you know has had a bout with back and spine pain. A nearly universal experience, lifetime prevalence of back and spine pain has been reported to be as high as 80%.
Back and spine pain accounts for the majority of pain experienced by chronic pain sufferers. Low back and neck pain are among the most common reasons people seek medical attention, with low back pain being the most frequent. And, statistically, women are more likely to complain of musculoskeletal pain than men.
The epidemic of back and spine pain takes a huge toll on the workplace and the economy. Low back pain is the leading cause of disability and work absence throughout the world. In the U.S., low back pain results in approximately 149 million lost days of work and costs as much as $200 billion annually.
Back and spine pain is also an expensive injury to treat compared to other types of injuries. If you experience back or spine pain you can expect to incur 60% greater healthcare expenditures than those who remain back pain free.
Who is at Risk?
Those in the age range from 35 to 55 years are statistically at greatest risk of developing back and spine pain; however, incidence in children and adolescents is on the rise. Risk factors may include occupational activities, depression, obesity, height and age.
Work-related slip-and-fall type accidents and occupational activities, such as sitting or standing for prolonged periods of time or repetitive activities and activities that involve use of certain types of equipment are among the most obvious risk factors. Additionally, occasional unexpected events such as automobile and athletic accidents are obvious contributors to the back and spine pain epidemic.
However, other, more subtle factors have also been found to contribute. For example, depression, anxiety and psychological stress such as stress related due to job dissatisfaction have been identified as independent risk factors for back pain.
Being overweight, which places increased physical stress on the back may also be a predisposing factor to developing some types of back pain, as are certain lifestyle habits, such as smoking, which depletes the body of nutrients needed for healing and repair.
Additionally, it is emerging that genetics plays a major role in why some individuals develop back and spine pain, with environmental factors being seen as secondary contributors.
How is Back and Spine Pain Currently Being Treated?
Painkillers and rest are the most common treatments for back and spine pain. However, when pain is severe or becomes chronic many patients are prescribed opioids. Highly addictive, opioid misuse and addiction have become a serious public health issue in the U.S. that has reached crisis proportions, causing social and economic strain. Physical therapy, rehabilitation and spinal manipulation represent non-drug conservative and alternative forms of treatment.
As a last resort, surgery is an option for some types of back and spine pain, though long-term results for back surgery are overall not very successful. Overall, available treatments for back and spine pain sufferers leave much to be desired in terms of effectiveness, cost and long-term outcomes.
Can PRP Help Back and Spine Pain?
PRP has much to offer sufferers of back and spine pain. PRP reduces pain and inflammation and, most importantly, speeds the healing process. This therapy has been proven to be effective for many types of ligament and tendon injuries such as rotator cuff tears, knee, ankle and hip injuries and arthritis.
It stands to reason that your back, which is held together by many ligaments and tendons is a prime candidate for PRP therapy and numerous studies show this to be true. PRP is a powerful tool not only as a pain-reducing agent but for its potential to provide a permanent healing solution in many instances of back and spine pain. Moreover, PRP has a high safety profile with a very low incdence of side effects, including virtually no serious or long-term adverse effects.
PRP is a viable alternative to the use of addictive pain medications, dangerous corticosteroids and may even help you avoid back surgery. Following are some common back and spine pain conditions that have been found to respond well to PRP therapy.
Degenerative Disc Disease
The cushions that separate the vertebrae, known as intervertebral discs, are made of a tough, fibrous cartilage outer ring surrounding a gelatinous core. Intervertebral discs have no blood supply of their own, so, once they become injured they have no way to repair themselves. As degeneration proceeds discs lose their normal height, bringing the vertebrae closer together.
Intervertebral discs are particularly vulnerable to certain kinds of injuries. In one such injury, the gelatinous material of the disc can bulge or even completely extrude through the surrounding cartilage. This often results from a sudden injury such as a fall or from lifting a heavy weight.
However, the sudden injury is often a last straw insult that uncovers a silent underlying condition that may have existed for some time in which the disc core has been bulging but not causing symptoms.
Degenerative disc disease is associated with chronic, low-grade pain. If the degenerating disc is in the low back, pain can radiate out to the hips and legs. If the affected disc is in the neck the arms and hands can become involved.
Sitting and certain movements will often worsen or bring on degenerative disc pain. As the condition worsens, inflammation and pressure on nerves can cause numbness and tingling sensations.
Read more about how PRP therapy can be used to treat degenerative disc disease here.
Sacroiliac Joint Pain
The sacroiliac joint connects the triangular bone at the base of your spine, known as the sacrum, to the iliac bones of the pelvis on either side. This barely-moveable joint provides stability to the low back and hips and withstands a lot of stress and tension on a day-to-day basis. Improper lifting, sudden injury such as a fall or inflammatory conditions, including some forms of arthritis, can target the sacroiliac joint.
A typical bout of sacroiliac dysfunction can last for a few days to a few weeks. Conservative treatments may include ice, heat and rest. Your doctor may advise the use of over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications as well as a brace during the healing process.
Additionally, chiropractic care, physical therapy and targeted exercises to promote healthy mobility and balance and strengthen the muscles of the low back and hips are also helpful and can speed healing. If you experience chronic or intractable sacroiliac joint disease you and your doctor might choose to explore the option of joint injections. In this procedure, the joint is injected with a combination of anesthetic and anti-inflammatory medications.
Facet Joint Pain
The small accessory joints that stick out on either side of the vertebrae are known as facet joints. These joints are meant to guide and limit the motion of your vertebrae. Facet joints are prone to injury and are a common source of neck and back pain.
Facet joint pain can range from a dull, constant ache to a sudden sharp pain when you move in a certain direction that literally stops you in your tracks. Facet joint pain typically increases with standing, backward bending and twisting and is alleviated by forward bending.
A sudden slip and fall injury, athletic injury or auto or workplace accident can compromise the facet joints, which, if left untreated, can set up a process of progressive degeneration over time. Longstanding facet degeneration leads to rough, irregular joints. In advanced cases, the facet joints can fuse together.
A variety of treatments are available for facet joint pain, including medications for pain and inflammation, chiropractic and physical therapy, joint injections, nerve removal, and surgery to remodel the joint.
Excessive narrowing of the canal that encloses the spinal cord or the spinal nerve roots can impinge on the cord, its nerve roots and surrounding blood vessels and lead to pain and dysfunction. Spinal stenosis usually occurs in the low back or neck and can occur as a congenital condition or can arise as a degenerative process associated with aging or arthritis.
Spinal stenosis symptoms typically develop gradually over time as the condition progresses. Physical activity or standing up for long periods of time can bring on symptoms, while rest and forward flexion tend to alleviate symptoms. If stenosis occurs in the lumbar spine leg pain will often occur after a few minutes of walking due to either nerve or blood vessel compression that is characteristically relieved with rest.
Therapeutic exercises can help promote mobility, manage pain and slow down the degenerative process of spinal stenosis. Similarly, it is important to modify your activities to avoid those that cause flareups. Anti-inflammatory medications including aspirin or ibuprofen can help with minor pain and discomfort. In severe instances narcotic medications, muscle relaxants, nerve desensitizing drugs may also be used.