Back pain: A condition that has probably been around as long as human life on earth
Virtually everybody experiences back pain. It is so common that it is ranked “disease of civilization”. Today, we differentiate between two types of back pain: unspecific and specific pain.
The two types of back pain
The correct diagnosis as the essential prerequisite
to successful treatment
Unspecific back pain
The good news is that the most common cause of back pain is tension of muscles (myogelosis) close to the spinal column, very likely as a reaction to life habits like lack of activity and movement, spending too much time in potentially harmful positions like sitting and/or bending the neck, stress and minor age-related changes of the human skeleton and joints. This pain is called unspecific as joints, nerves and vertebral discs (cartilage discs between the vertebral bodies serving as shock absorbing buffers as well as enabling the complex movements of the spine) are usually undamaged. Luckily, treatment consisting of physiotherapy and increase in (spine-friendly) activity, application of warmth, painkillers at reasonable level and interval as well as waiting with optimism are most likely to sufficiently provide relief of the pain. In addition, stress-reduction and patience are helpful and may be key in avoiding the need for more intense treatment.
Specific back pain
However, in about 10% of all cases of back pain, other causes for back pain than muscle tensions can be identified – e.g. irritation of nerve roots due to cartilaginous material discharged from the intervertebral disc (disc prolapse), instability and deformity of bone and joints, osteoporosis and osteoporotic fractures, tumors of different origin as well as inflammation and infection of spinal structures. In all of these cases, it is of utmost importance to correctly identify the cause of pain and to initiate and carry out the best possible, highest-standard therapy for the specific pathology leading to pain. This type of back pain is called “specific” as there is a specific cause of pain, needing specific treatment.