Pinched Nerve vs Herniated Disc

Pinched Nerve vs Herniated Disc

Experiencing pain in your back? You’re certainly not alone. A reported 8 out of 10 people experience back pain at some point in their lives, making it one of the most common physical ailments, causes of missed work days, and general grievances. 

Yet, it’s important to understand that not all back pain is created equally. The spinal cord in our back is complex– filled with individual vertebrae, discs, and a whole host of muscles, nerves, and tendons built to protect this important structure in our bodies. When you think about it, it’s understandable there are a myriad of different causes of back pain…and thus, a myriad of different approaches to effective treatment. Additionally, the treatment of one specific kind of back injury may not fit another, which can make it more difficult to discern the best course of action.

Let’s take a deeper look at three of the most common overarching types of back pain, and how to approach treatment.

Acute Back Pain

Acute back pain is characterized by the amount of time that you’ve experienced discomfort or pain. In this case, we’re talking about back injuries that are less than six months old. Many times, this pain arises from a singular incident– one that you can think back and specifically recall. 

For instance: “Oh yeah! I remember tweaking my back while picking up my rambunctious toddler.” 

These quick, momentary incidents can do damage to our backs in an instant. Whether it happens while carrying a heavy load, losing our balance and falling, or twisting in a way our bodies were not meant to, these injuries can crop up suddenly without any warning. 

Best Treatment Approach

So, how should acute back injuries be treated? Swift, early treatment is a major key to effective treatment for acute back pain. Many of these acute injuries involve a strained muscle or tendon surrounding the spinal cord and can drag on if not addressed quickly. The sooner that you can begin to treat the issue, the better. Many acute back injuries become consistent, nagging problems due to neglecting care. Generally, longer-term back pain is more difficult to treat, so you’ll want to nip this injury in the bud as soon as possible. 

Oftentimes, managing acute pain prioritizes getting the inflammation under control. This means rest and avoiding any activities that aggravate the area. Some ice and heat application to the affected area can also help with managing discomfort. And of course, we recommend seeking medical care to ensure that you’re on the right healing trajectory.

Chronic Back Pain

Chronic back pain is ongoing, long-term back pain of six months or more. Generally, chronic back pain falls into two main camps. The first is the result of an acute injury that goes unmanaged and continues to nag consistently, perhaps even increasing in severity.  

The second main category of chronic back pain is not the result of one singular event, but creeps up on you over time from natural degeneration. As we age, the jelly-like padded discs that lie between our vertebraes begin to lose some of their water. And, as those pads become a little less plush, some achiness and discomfort can begin to set in. This degeneration over time is incredibly common.

Best Treatment Approach

If you’re treating an acute injury turned chronic, you’ll likely need some soft-tissue body work (like a massage) along with appropriate mobility exercises to perform consistently. Seek out a practitioner who can meet you at your starting point, provide some of this soft-tissue work as well as guidance in the way of exercises to perform in your day-to-day routine. Massage therapists or physical therapists can be great resources for this.

In the case of degenerative chronic back pain, many people experience real relief from working on core and back muscle strength and stability. As our discs lose some of their elasticity, our bodies need to rely on the surrounding muscles of the spine more for stability. By addressing these key areas, you help to take pressure off of your spine.

In both scenarios, seeking medical attention is a must. It’s best to work with a practitioner who can properly diagnose your situation and oversee your progress, troubleshooting any areas that need extra attention. They will also be able to appropriately prescribe the best exercises to incorporate into your routine as you work toward complete health. 

Neuropathic Back Pain

Neuropathic back pain can be chronic in nature, but the sensation is typically a bit different. It tends to feel sharp, burning, stabbing, or uncomfortably numb in nature, and can radiate from your back through your arms or down your legs. 

This happens when one or more of the many nerves that run through your spine becomes compressed. If one of your discs or vertebrae becomes even minimally displaced, it can place pressure on your nerves, causing discomfort and pain.  

Best Treatment Approach

Neuropathic back pain often responds best to a multidisciplinary approach, meaning that you should come at this from more than just one modality. Try ice and heat application to better control pain and some of the inflammation, but also be sure to seek out soft tissue therapists who can also recommend specific exercises. 

Chiropractic Support For Better Back Health

As you look to better support your overall back health, chiropractic care is a safe and natural treatment regime for addressing acute, chronic, and neuropathic back pain. Chiropractic care utilizes gentle adjustments of the spine and extremities to realign your body. These gentle adjustments help to decrease inflammation, relieve pressure, reduce nerve irritability, and ultimately allow your entire body to relax and allow actual healing to take place. 

Additionally, your practitioner may recommend other exercises or modalities to perform outside of appointment times, to help expedite your healing process. By working consistent chiropractic care into your rehabilitation routine, you could reduce your healing time and increase your overall quality of life. That’s a huge win-win. 

Don’t neglect your back health any longer.

Schedule an appointment online or call us today. 

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for in-person advice or care from a medical professional.