This 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 major 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
When 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!