I recently asked some of my family members about back pain, and I was surprised how many of them struggle with it — all for different reasons. After getting some questions answered by Dr. Jared Crasto, an orthopedic spine surgeon at The Christ Hospital, I realize that back pain is a “when” more than a “what if.” However, there are simple steps you can take to ease the pain or just stay ahead of it.
What do I need to know?
When I think of back pain, I’ve always assumed it was something I won’t have to deal with until I’m older. This is NOT true! Dr. Crasto says that back pain is a very common complaint that can strike across ages and occupations. The most common cause of back pain is muscular strain. Treating the pain isn’t always complicated—physical therapy, massage, chiropractic care and anti-inflammatories are the most common methods, according to Dr. Crasto.
I am trying to get ahead of any future issues I might have. Dr. Crasto recommended core strengthening exercises when I hit the gym. He also said, “Some patients will take turmeric as a natural anti-inflammatory.”
I was excited to learn this! I cook a lot, and turmeric is a flavorful spice that I can easily incorporate into my meals. Having a healthy diet is always important and can even help with back pain to an extent.
“Obesity definitely takes a toll on your back. Some anti-inflammatory diets such as the Mediterranean diet can help reduce inflammation and maybe help with chronic back pain, but it’s hard to pin this down just yet,” Dr. Crasto said.
My job contributes to my back pain. What can I do?
I spoke with my brother-in-law about his chronic back pain. He said that a lot of his pain comes from the work he does as a landscaper. It puts strain on his back. I asked Dr. Crasto about this, and he recommended, “Ergonomics are key. If you are doing a repetitive task, make sure you are doing it with proper mechanics to maximize the muscular efficiency and reduce the strain on your back. The common adage ‘lift with your legs, not your back’ applies here.”
I personally don’t have to do any physical labor at work. I sit at a desk and look at a computer for most of the day (and talk… A LOT). This doesn’t mean I’m not putting any strain on my back. To be honest, my posture needs work! Living in a world of computers and smartphones, I find myself slouching often. Sitting up straight is an easy way to be proactive or just alleviate back pain symptoms you might have.
Does neck pain go hand-in-hand with back pain? When is it time to see a spine specialist?
My mom complains of neck pain, but she says it feels better when she cracks her back. I wondered if my mom’s neck pain is associated with her back pain.
Dr. Crasto informed me, “There’s a phenomenon called tandem stenosis. We see this commonly. It describes people who have spinal stenosis in their neck and lower back at the same time. It is reported in up to 20 percent of cases where one site of stenosis is present. That’s why frequently we will examine patients for both their back and neck at the same time, even if they aren’t complaining of pain in the other, to screen them for additional problems.”
When should someone start to think about back surgery? “When there are signs of nerve compression like sciatica, pinched nerves, or leg pain. Surgery is usually targeted at curing the leg pain,” Dr. Crasto explained.
Other signs that it’s time to consult a spine specialist include:
Back pain that does not improve with time
Back pain that worsens with activity
Back pain that causes numbness, weakness or tingling in your arms or legs
Problems with balance or controlling your bowels or bladder
Ready to find relief from your back or neck pain? The Christ Hospital Joint & Spine Center is Greater Cincinnati’s leading destination for spine care. Click or tap here to schedule an appointment online or call us at 513-585-3000.