IMG_2024This week’s blog aims to show that chronic back pain (CBP) is quite complex. This phrase is thrown around so frequently one might think it is one thing in everyone. I want to help you ID the difference between the┬ámajor types of ‘chronic back pain’: mechanical and inflammatory. There are many causes for each type but I am not diving into that here.

Knowing the type and specific cause allows tailored care. Nearly a third of adults with CBP have an inflammatory cause. This can be a sign of serious inflammation elsewhere in the body.

Characteristics of mechanical back pain (ex. disc disease, nerve pinched) include:

  • any age although usually older
  • sudden onset
  • AM stiffness <30 minutes
  • no night pain
  • worsens with activity

Characteristics of inflammatory back pain include:

  • age younger than 40
  • slow onset
  • AM stiffness >30 minutes
  • nighttime pain
  • improves with activity

Screen Shot 2014-06-22 at 11.40.28 AMWhen you talk to your medical care provider explain your symptoms (ex. stiffness, numbness, location) and offer specific from the list above. If your back pain has lasted more than 3 months, feels stiff when you wake up and hurts the most when you rest perhaps it is caused by an inflammatory condition (ex. ankylosing spondylitis).

Again you are your best advocate!