The Role of Inflammation in Back Pain
Most episodes of back pain involve the
presence of inflammation. Inflammation is the body's first defense against
infection and first response to injury. Inflammation represents an immunological
process to help clean up and repair and injured area. Normally the process
is self-limiting and stops. In some situations, the inflammatory process
does not shut down and becomes chronic, leading to further tissue compromise.
Inflammation can occur in a localized area of the spine secondary to
physical compromise of the tissue, chemical irritation of the tissue
and/or secondary to a local infectious process. It most commonly arises
from normal wear and tear on aging structures.
Some tissues of the spine such as the intervertebral disc have chemicals that are normally contained, but when exposed to neighboring spinal tissues they promote inflammation and pain. Spine inflammation can develop secondary to a local insult or process. It can also be influenced by a systemic or a generalized inflammatory process affecting the entire body via the bloodstream. Pro-inflammatory chemicals circulating in the blood may reach the involved area of the spine.
There are many different types of therapeutic approaches which can be used in an attempt to reduce inflammation and pain. This often includes the use of dietary modification, nutritional supplementation and/or the use of oral anti-inflammatory medication. In more sever cases a local anti-inflammatory injection may be used. A combined approach may be the most effective. The reduction of inflammation often leads to reduced pain intensity and distribution. The suspected presence of inflammation is the basis for the prescription of steroidal and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to treat or manage back pain. Some pharmaceutical pain killers do not reduce inflammation but simply block pain. Check with you doctor to see which approach is best for you.