Acute back pain is a symptom that can have various causes. Often times it is confused with a disorder but this is incorrect. In medicine, acute is referred to as something of relatively short duration (and usually of severe intensity) versus chronic which means something of much longer duration and persistence. For instance, a headache as a result of too much alcohol consumption would qualify as an acute experience that will most likely last a day or two or as is often the case, just a few hours. On the other hand, people who suffer from migraines experience long lasting (chronic) and equally severe headaches, not so much because a migraine headache can last for days, but rather because migraines tend to be present due to permanent underlying issues such as genetic factors.
As we grow older, our spine slowly degrades and we experience this with sporadic back pain; this is normal. However, the disintegration of our spines occur with varying degrees of severity and this can translate to heightened pain intensity and persistence until it eventually becomes chronic.
Distinct Perceptions of Pain
Our bodies induce pain in two manners:
– Neuropathic Pain: Occurs when peripheral nerve fibers and the central nervous system are stimulated by harm inflicted directly to them. Neuropathic pain can have a long duration and can linger even after the injury has healed.
– Nociceptive Pain (Inflammation): When one of our organs or tissue is damaged, the damaged cell’s nociceptors send a signal to the brain as a result of inflammation to the injured part, indicating location and severity of trauma. Chronic back pain would be described as nociceptive pain though in many cases a combination of neuropathic and nociceptive pain are present.
The Inflammatory Response
Inflammation is a necessary evil for the healing process. When a tissue gets injured it prompts a response at the cellular level. This reaction entails the capillaries leaking fluid while alternative cells get rid of deceased cells at the injured location. As the site swells, excitation of nociceptors follow suit to signal our brain that we are experiencing pain. These two operations are what actually allow healing of the affected part.
Chronic pain management has been the focus of medicine for ages. Naturally pain hurts, but we have evolved to experience pain for the purpose of knowing that something is amiss in our bodies. Surgery, medication and physical therapy are all useful in the management of pain.