Getting to the Root of Severe Back Pain
Have you been experiencing excruciating pain in the muscles, nerves, bones, or joints in your back? Has the pain been radiating to other areas of your body, including your arms, legs, hands, and feet? You may have a condition known as dorsalgia.
What Is Dorsalgia?
Dorsalgia, from the Latin terms dorsal, translated as “back,” and algia, meaning “pain,” literally means pain in or around your back. It’s a general term, though, used to refer to muscle, joint, bone, and nerve discomfort—essentially any pain associated with your spinal column. Though the pain may emanate in the back, it’s fairly common for the symptoms of dorsalgia to extend, or radiate, to your upper and lower extremities, based on where the condition originates.
What Are Common Causes of Dorsalgia?
Dorsalgia may stem from a traumatic injury or from a degenerative condition. A bulging or herniated disc can lead to dorsalgia, as can other types of traumatic injury to your spinal cord—it’s frequently caused by motor vehicle accidents.
Additionally, dorsalgia may be the result of:
- Osteoporosis—A pathological condition where the bones lose density and become more porous, making them more brittle and susceptible to fracture
- Kyphosis—A postural deformity where the upper back takes on a curved shape, causing your shoulders to round and your shoulder blades to protrude
- Lordosis—A physical condition where the natural curvature of the spine becomes exaggerated
- Sciatica—Pain associated with the sciatic nerve, which runs from the back of the pelvis to your feet
- Lumbago—Pain that is localized in the lower area of the back (the “lumbar” region)
- Degenerative disc disease (DDD)—Breakdown of the discs that provide cushioning between the vertebrae in your back, a natural process that accelerate in people over 50
Dorsalgia can also be a consequence of stress.
What Are the Symptoms of Dorsalgia?
Unfortunately, dorsalgia can look very different from one person to the next and can show different symptoms based on the underlying cause. Common symptoms include:
- Challenges with flexibility or mobility—increasing difficulty in bending or stooping, problems with your gait, an inability to change your posture or get up from a seated position
- Burning or stinging pain in your neck or any part of your back
- Tingling or numbness in certain areas of your body
- Intense radiating pain in legs, arms, hands, feet, fingers, or toes
What Are the Different Types of Dorsalgia?
There are six commonly diagnosed forms of dorsalgia:
- Cervical dorsalgia—The seven stacked bones that connect your head to your torso and make up your neck are referred to as your cervical spine or cervical vertebrae. Cervical dorsalgia is any neck pain caused by either traumatic injury or deterioration of the cervical vertebrae.
- Thoracic dorsalgia—The thoracic region of your spine runs from the base of your neck, or cervical vertebrae, to your abdomen (where your lumbar region begins). Any pain emanating from injury or degenerative conditions in this area is referred to as thoracic dorsalgia.
- Cervicothoracic dorsalgia—This refers to simultaneous pain in the cervical and thoracic spine.
- Lumbar dorsalgia—The lowest vertebrae in your spinal cord are known as lumbar vertebrae. The most frequently diagnosed type of dorsalgia, lumbar dorsalgia, involves pain in the lower back, commonly caused by the wear and tear these vertebrae take in supporting your upper body.
- Thoracolumbar dorsalgia—Thoracolumbar dorsalgia refers to simultaneous pain in the thoracic and lumbar regions.
- Lumbosacral dorsalgia—Your sacrum is found at the base of your lumbar vertebrae and is part of your tailbone. Simultaneous pain in your lumbar region and your sacrum is referred to as lumbosacral dorsalgia.
How Is Dorsalgia Treated?
Depending on the severity of your condition, you may opt for either conservative or more radical treatment of dorsalgia. Common conservative approaches include anti-inflammatory medications, painkillers, or muscle relaxants. A graduated regimen of physical therapy can also be used to strengthen muscles and build stability in the back and to improve mobility, balance, and range of motion. The alternating use of an ice pack and a heating pad can bring significant relief.
If, however, your dorsalgia is more debilitating, you may choose a surgical option, such as:
- Artificial disc replacement—Removal of a damaged disc and implantation of an artificial one
- Microdiscectomy—Removal of the disc causing the dorsalgia
- Vertebroplasty—Injection of bone cement into a fractured or weakened vertebra, often used in patients with osteoporosis
- Spinal fusion—Removal of a problematic disc and subsequent fusing together of the discs on both sides of the removed disc
Get the Medical Attention You Need
Dorsalgia can bring your life to a standstill, but it’s treatable. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed here, get medical care as soon as possible. To find a qualified medical professional who can diagnose and treat your condition, visit our medical provider directory.