The Blog
August 5, 2019

Understanding Dorsalgia: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

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You wake up in the morning, ready to take on the day, but as you swing your legs over the edge of the bed, a searing pain shoots through your back. Suddenly, simple movements like reaching for your toothbrush or bending down to tie your shoelaces become daunting tasks.

If this sounds like you, you are not alone. Millions of people around the world share the same experience. Dorsalgia, or generalized back pain, affects up to 40% of people over 40. It is also one of the most common reasons people seek medical help and is a leading cause of disability worldwide.

In this article, we will explore the causes, signs, and treatment options available for dorsalgia. Whether you're seeking knowledge or solutions to alleviate your back pain, we've got you covered.

What is Dorsalgia?

Dorsalgia, also known as back pain, encompasses a wide range of discomfort or pain experienced in the back area. It can affect individuals of all ages and can be categorized as acute (short-term) or chronic (lasting more than three months). Dorsalgia can originate from various structures, including muscles, ligaments, bones, and intervertebral discs.

There are six types of dorsalgia, categorized according to the specific section of the spine where the pain originates. These are:

  • Cervical Dorsalgia
  • Cervicothoracic Dorsalgia
  • Thoracic Dorsalgia
  • Thoracolumbar Dorsalgia
  • Lumbar Dorsalgia
  • Lumbosacral Dorsalgia

The seriousness of dorsalgia depends on which part of the spine is affected and what is causing the pain. Pinpointing the exact cause of pain requires a proper and precise diagnosis. Without it, understanding the underlying reasons for the pain becomes difficult, making effective treatment a challenge.

Dealing with mild or chronic back pain? Schedule an appointment with Royal Spine Surgery in Scottsdale, AZ, today!

What Causes Dorsalgia?

Several factors can contribute to the development of generalized back pain, each requiring a different approach to treatment. Understanding these factors is crucial for effective management and prevention. Some common causes include:

  • Muscular Strain and Sprains
    Muscular strain and sprains often result from improper lifting techniques, sudden movements, or overexertion. These can lead to micro-tears in the muscles and ligaments, causing pain and inflammation in the dorsal region.
  • Poor Posture and Ergonomics
    Maintaining poor posture or spending prolonged periods in positions that strain the back can contribute to developing dorsalgia. Slouching, hunching over a desk, or improper ergonomics while working can all be contributing factors.
  • Herniated Discs
    A herniated disc occurs when the soft center of a spinal disc pushes through a crack in the tougher exterior. This condition can result in nerve compression, leading to pain and other associated symptoms.
  • Degenerative Disc Disease
    Degenerative disc disease is a natural process that occurs with age, causing the discs between the vertebrae to lose their cushioning ability. This can lead to chronic pain and stiffness in the back.
  • Osteoarthritis
    Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease affecting various body parts, including the spine. In the case of dorsalgia, osteoarthritis can lead to the breakdown of cartilage in the joints of the back, resulting in pain and limited mobility.
  • Traumatic Injuries
    Accidents, falls, and sports-related injuries can cause trauma to the back, leading to acute or chronic pain. Fractures, sprains, or strains can also occur and affect the stability and function of the spine.
  • Other Contributing Factors
    Various other factors can contribute to dorsalgia, including obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, stress, and underlying medical conditions like scoliosis or spinal stenosis.

What are the Symptoms of Dorsalgia?

From localized discomfort to a limited range of motion, dorsalgia symptoms can significantly impact one's daily life. By acquainting yourself with these signs, you can navigate the intricacies of this condition more effectively and take proactive steps towards finding relief.

The following symptoms are commonly associated with dorsalgia:

  • Localized Pain and Discomfort
    Dorsalgia often presents as localized pain or discomfort in the affected area. It can be a dull, achy, or sharp pain in the back, and the intensity may vary.
  • Radiating Pain
    Sometimes, dorsalgia leads to radiating upper and lower back pain that extends to other areas, such as the buttocks, hips, or legs. This is known as radicular pain and is often associated with nerve compression.
  • Muscle Stiffness and Spasms
    Tightness, stiffness, or spasms in the upper or lower back muscles are frequent telltale signs of dorsalgia. These muscle issues can further contribute to pain and limited mobility.
  • Limited Range of Motion
    Individuals with dorsalgia may experience difficulty moving their backs or performing certain activities that require bending or twisting.
  • Numbness or Tingling Sensations
    If pain is due to nerve compression, individuals may experience numbness, tingling, or "pins and needles" in the back, buttocks, or legs.

How is Dorsalgia Diagnosed?

Accurate diagnosis is essential in identifying the best dorsalgia treatment for a specific case. Healthcare professionals may employ various methods to diagnose the condition, including:

Medical History and Physical Examination

The healthcare provider inquires about the patient's medical history, including the duration, location, and characteristics of the pain. A thorough physical examination may also be conducted to assess range of motion, muscle strength, and neurological function.

Imaging Tests

Imaging tests, such as X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or computed tomography (CT) scans, can provide detailed images of the spinal structures. These tests help identify herniated discs, degenerative changes, fractures, or other abnormalities.

Other Diagnostic Procedures

In some cases, additional diagnostic procedures like electromyography (EMG) or nerve conduction studies may be recommended to evaluate nerve function and rule out underlying nerve disorders.

What are the Best Treatments for Dorsalgia?

When it comes to treating back pain or dorsalgia, there are two main avenues to explore: conservative therapy and surgical treatment. The choice between these approaches hinges upon the diagnosis and etiology, which determines the underlying cause and severity of the condition.

Before settling on a specific treatment path, our specialists at Royal Spine Surgery thoroughly analyze the diagnostic results to identify probable causes. We discuss the options with the patient, considering their preferences and needs in creating a treatment plan.

Conservative Therapy for Dorsalgia

Doctors often recommend conservative therapy when back pain is in its early stages, and the condition is not severe. This approach involves utilizing over-the-counter pain relievers, physical therapy, chiropractic therapy, massage therapy, and pain management interventions, such as injections.

Pain management injections may be considered if other conservative therapies fail to alleviate the underlying conditions causing the pain. By administering anti-inflammatory drugs directly into the affected area, doctors aim to address and confirm the suspected diagnosis while providing relief.However, if these conservative measures prove ineffective, it may be necessary to consider the second treatment option.

Surgical Treatment for Dorsalgia

Surgical intervention becomes viable when the diagnosis reveals a severe underlying condition or if conservative therapy fails to yield improvements. The specific surgical approach depends on the cause and type of back pain.Various surgical procedures exist, including microdiscectomy for herniated discs, electrical stimulation to block pain signals, spinal fusion to alleviate pain by fusing two discs, and artificial disc replacement to replace the affected disc with an artificial alternative.

Prevention Tips and Lifestyle Changes

Preventing dorsalgia involves adopting healthy habits and making lifestyle modifications. The following practices can help reduce the risk of developing or exacerbating back pain:

  1. Maintain a Good Posture
    Practice proper ergonomics while sitting, standing, or lifting heavy objects to minimize strain on the back.
  2. Exercise Regularly
    Engage in activities that strengthen the core muscles, promote flexibility, and improve overall fitness. Yoga, swimming, and walking are excellent choices.
  3. Lift with Care
    Use your leg muscles instead of bending from the waist when lifting objects. Hold the object close to your body and avoid twisting while lifting.
  4. Quit Smoking
    Smoking reduces blood flow to the spinal discs, impairing their ability to absorb nutrients and increasing the risk of back problems.
  5. Maintain a Healthy Weight
    Excess weight places additional stress on the spine and back muscles, increasing the likelihood of dorsalgia. Adopting a balanced diet and exercising regularly can help maintain a healthy weight.

Embrace a Back Pain-Free Life with Royal Spine Surgery

Expert care is essential for effectively treating upper back, low back, and mid back pain. Royal Spine Surgery offers a comprehensive approach to diagnosing and treating acute to severe back pain. We utilize advanced diagnostic techniques and a multidisciplinary approach to treat and manage dorsalgia pain.

Advanced Diagnostic Techniques

Royal Spine Surgery utilizes state-of-the-art diagnostic imaging technology, including MRI and CT scans, to accurately identify the underlying cause of dorsalgia.

Multidisciplinary Approach

We collaborate with highly skilled specialists, including neurosurgeons, pain management physicians, and physical therapists, to provide personalized treatment plans tailored to each patient's needs.

Minimally Invasive Surgical Expertise

Royal Spine Surgery in Scottsdale, AZ specializes in microtube spine surgery, reducing surgical risks, post-operative pain, and recovery time while maximizing successful outcomes.

Dr. Abdulhamid focuses on an integrated approach when treating dorsalgia and will always opt for the best treatment option for your condition. Our team will try as much as possible to avoid invasive surgeries and have invested in modern technology to make our work easy and more effective.

Let us relieve you from the shackles of dorsalgia. Give us a call today!

Dr. Abdulhamid


Dr. Abdulhamid

Dr. Abdulhamid is a highly skilled and experienced board-certified neurosurgeon with a passion for providing exceptional spine care. He specializes in minimally invasive spine surgery and has a reputation for achieving outstanding results for his patients. His commitment to excellence and patient-centered approach have earned him the trust and respect of his patients and colleagues alike.

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