Back pain is a common complaint, whether it’s from a simple strain from carrying a heavy load or a longer-term issue like stenosis. Sometimes it’s obvious what’s wrong — you remember that you were in a hurry and decided to just lift a heavy box by yourself — but in other cases, it may be harder to pinpoint what’s causing your pain. In some cases, back pain can actually be a symptom of a problem somewhere else in your body.
The human body is able to function through the intricate cooperative workings of multiple systems, including your muscles and bones. When you feel a pain in one part of the body that can’t be attributed to an acute injury, without medical evaluation it can sometimes be completely impossible to accurately self-diagnose a pain. The causes of back pain can be especially mysterious to the average person, since while you know you’re in pain, you can’t tell simply by looking that it’s a herniated disc or a bone spur, for example. There are also some common issues that stem from other parts of the body but can manifest as back pain:
Problems in the hip joints: Your posture and range of motion are highly dependent on your back and hips, so a problem with one can easily impact the other. A hip injury that is left untreated can cause you to alter the way you sit or walk, which then will have a ripple effect of pain and stiffness in other parts of the body, particularly the back. Improper posture or regularly walking or sitting in an unusual position could also cause the original injury to heal incorrectly. One way that you can begin to assess whether your back pain is connected to a hip problem is to pay attention to what happens to your pain once you’ve been walking around for a little while. If the problem is really a hip issue, you’re more likely to continue to feel pain during and after walking.
Knee or foot issues: Problems in your lower leg are apt to alter the way that you walk, and even a slight limp can throw your posture off balance enough to put significant pressure on your back. Back pain that goes away while you are sitting could be related to the way you’re walking or standing. It’s important to have this kind of pain looked at because it is better to take preventative measures — whether it’s sports medicine, podiatry, or something as simple as changing the style of shoe you wear — than to wait until it’s become a major problem.
Shoulder injuries: You think of your shoulders as a part of your arms, but they are actually part of the back’s anatomy. This means that pain originating in the shoulders is especially likely to radiate to other parts of the back. If the pain recedes after a massage or rotation focused on the shoulders, it may be the case that your back pain is a secondary result of a shoulder injury.
If you are uncertain about the cause of your back pain, pay attention to what seems to exacerbate or alleviate the pain. This information can provide some valuable clues to help your physician make a diagnosis. Pain that persists for two weeks or more should be checked out. At the Spine Institute Northwest, we believe in early intervention and accurate diagnosis to forestall the cascading problems that can come with chronic pain. To schedule a consultation with one of our physicians, call us at 206-496-0630.