Inflammatory Back Pain – Understanding and Managing Your Pain

Inflammatory Back Pain

Inflammatory back pain is a chronic back pain condition where pain is felt deep in the buttocks or in the lower back. It falls as a major category of back pain (R). Acute pain is pain that typically lasts less than three to six months. On the other hand, pain that lasts for more than three to six months is defined as chronic pain. Thus, inflammatory back pain lasts longer than three to six months.

Did you know that in the United States, inflammatory back pain affects 5-6%? And that’s adults between the ages of 20 and 69? On the other hand, in most countries, less than 8% of the population is affected by this type of pain (R). Between 5%-20% of people with chronic back pain have inflammatory back pain. Read on to see what inflammatory back pain is all about and how you can use the CareClinic app to help you manage it.

Signs and Symptoms of Inflammatory Back Pain

  • Chronic back pain that lasts for 3 months or more
  • Pain develops before age 40
  • Condition develops slowly (insidious onset)
  • Early morning pain and stiffness lasting over 30 minutes
  • Exercise and moving the affected joints reduces pain
  • Pain reduces with hot showers
  • Pain worsens in the evening or with rest
  • Tenderness in the SI (sacroiliac) joint, often seen as alternating buttock pain (R)

What Causes Back Pain and Inflammation?

Inflammatory back pain is caused by an inflammatory response in the body, where the immune system mistakenly attacks the joints located in the spine. Such pain is typically associated with ankylosing spondylitis, which is a type of arthritis that affects the joints of the spine, but can also be associated with other types of arthritis. This pain may also come after an acute inflammatory response following an injury or an infection.

Other Categories of Back Pain

  • Mechanical
  • Degenerative (due to diseases such as osteoporosis)
  • Oncologic (due to tumors)
  • Infectious

Mechanical back pain is the most common form of back pain. It is caused by an injury to a person’s spine, intervertebral discs, or to any muscles or soft tissue near the spine. Degenerative back pain is due to bone loss due to osteoporosis and damage to joints along the spine because of osteoarthritis. Oncologic back pain is the result of tumors that have spread to the bones of the spine. Meanwhile, infectious back pain is the result of infections of the spine, intervertebral discs, muscles or soft tissue near the spine.

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Impact of Back Pain

Back pain, such as inflammatory back pain, is one of the most common reasons for people to seek out medical care from their family physicians or other care providers (R). An estimated $200 billion are spent each year just to treat back pain. It is also responsible for significant losses of work hours and productivity. People who have chronic back pain often experience poorer mental and physical wellbeing, have a lower ability to function, and report greater problems with their interpersonal relationships (R). Chronic back pain is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide. As a result, chronic back pain has a significant negative impact on quality of life.

How Is Inflammatory Back Pain Diagnosed or Evaluated?

If you are experiencing chronic back pain, you should speak to your family physician, nurse practitioner or primary care provider. Your primary care provider will mostly likely take your medical history and conduct a physical examination. So, it is important that you carefully answer questions regarding your symptoms. Your primary care provider may also refer you to a rheumatologist. A rheumatologist is an internal medicine specialist physician who specializes in diagnosing and treating inflammatory conditions involving bones, muscles, and joints.

Depending on your medical history and the results of your physical examination, your primary care provider or rheumatologist may order additional tests, such as blood tests or imaging. Imaging may include X-Rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, CT scans, bone scans, and other tests. The presence of the HLA-B27 genetic marker on a blood test can indicate that your back pain is ankylosing spondylitis. Imaging that shows inflammation in the SI joint can indicate inflammatory back pain.

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Managing and Treating Inflammatory Back Pain

Your primary care provider or rheumatologist may refer you to a physiotherapist so that they can provide physical therapy and guided exercise. This is because inflammatory back pain responds well to exercise and movement. You will likely be recommended low impact exercises. This will help to prevent the jarring of affected areas. This will help prevent the pain or stiffness from becoming worse. If you are a smoker, your care providers may advise you to quit smoking. Your care providers may also recommend acupuncture or osteopathy.  Patients suffering from chronic back pain have shown great recovery from these treatments.

In terms of medications, your care providers may initially recommend starting with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drugs to provide relief for pain and stiffness. NSAIDs are over-the-counter pain medications that include acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. Your care providers may recommend that you take a specific NSAID medication for two to four weeks. This will allow sufficient time to evaluate which medications are effective. You can take these medications as required. If NSAIDs are not effective, your care providers may prescribe biologic drugs, such as TNF inhibitors. These drugs work to suppress a person’s immune response to reduce the inflammation that is causing the back pain.

Mental Health and Inflammatory Back Pain

Patients with inflammatory back pain and other chronic back pain conditions often report low mood. These conditions can also associated with anxiety and depression. To better manage your mental health, your care providers may recommend cognitive behavior therapy. Cognitive behavior therapy is a short-term form of psychotherapy. Your providers may also recommend mindfulness-based stress reduction, tai chi or yoga. Social support is also very important for those with chronic pain conditions like inflammatory back pain. This involves people who are important to your social and psychological wellbeing. Such people can include friends, family members, or members of the community.

Usually surgery is not recommended, unless there are severe limitations on mobility and quality of life. There could be a possibility of disability.

How Can CareClinic Help You?

One of the top rated mobile health apps currently available for you is CareClinic. CareClinic allows you to track and document how you are managing your inflammatory back pain. It allows you to track and monitor your symptoms, as well the steps you are taking to manage your condition.

Manage Your Appointments

One of the features of the app allows you to schedule appointments in the app’s calendar. Whether you are seeing your primary care provider, a rheumatologist, a physiotherapist, or another health care provider, these reminders can help you keep track of all your appointments.

Track Your Activities

The app also has a feature to enter and track exercise and activities. Exercise and activity have been proven to be effective treatment solutions to relieve pain and stiffness associated with inflammatory back pain. It is important to keep track of your exercise and activities. Your physiotherapist may prescribe and teach you certain exercises to help you better manage your condition. You can add many other activities to track in the CareClinic app.

Forgetful? CareClinic Will Remind You

One of the best features of the app is its medication reminder feature. You can enter each medication you are taking and the time that you normally take your medication. Using this information, you can schedule medication reminders. Reminders can help ensure that you take your medications correctly and on time. This is regardless of whether you are taking over-the-counter NSAIDs or medications prescribed by your care providers. You can also generate and view reports to track how well you are taking your medication.

Manage Your Symptoms

CareClinic can also track your pain, your mood, and other symptoms. For each symptom, the app will ask you to rate the severity of each symptom from 0-10, with 0 being the least severe and 10 being the most severe. As with other metrics that the app can track, such as medication, you can generate a report to see how well you are managing your pain. Additionally, CareClinic has a diary feature that you can use to document your experience in managing your condition, whether you’re having a good day or bad. You can write diary entries as often as you would like.

Integrated Platform To Help Track

The app allows your mobile device to sync directly with Apple Health or Google Health (depending on your device). CareClinic can also successfully integrate with other platforms, such as electronic medical records (EMRs) from physician’s offices or pharmacies, if permitted. This can allow you to seamlessly share your data with your care providers so that they can obtain  better insights into your health and provide better care.

The premium version of CareClinic allows you to gain access to communities of patients with similar conditions, custom care-plans, custom exercise plans, advanced reminders and more. Since mental health is a key concern of people who have inflammatory back pain or any other type of chronic pain condition, the anti-anxiety and mood management care plan may be helpful.

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Dan Pineda