The feelings are universal: pain in your back when you get out of your seat, sore neck after sleeping on it wrong, or, worse, a dull pain that sticks with you every day and every moment according to Medical News Today.
About 8 out of 10 people will experience some sort of burning sensation in their back at some point in their lives. It’s a common problem that affects all type of people.
Back problems don’t discriminate, and they can affect people of all ages, races, sizes, and professions.
However, there are certain patterns that are worth noting for educational and practical purposes.
If you or someone you know experiences back pain, it’s important to treat the condition individually as back problems develop for a number of different reasons and different patients require different treatments.
Here is an extensive overview of everything you needed to know about that burning sensation in your back.
Hopefully, you will have the knowledge that you need to keep your pain from becoming a truly debilitating problem.
What is a burning sensation in the back?
First, let’s clarify exactly what a burning sensation in the back is. It is a feeling of heat anywhere on the back that can also include pain but not always.
Some patients also describe tingling or numbness as well. It’s important to be as descriptive as possible about what the sensation feels like so that your doctor can diagnose the problem properly.
There are two types of pain: acute and chronic. Acute pain may be more prominent, but it usually only lasts for a couple of weeks.
Chronic pain may be duller, but it lasts a long time and may contribute to other back issues.
Pay attention to how severe the pain is and how long you’ve experienced the pain.
Some people will keep a small journal so that they can provide their doctor with the most accurate description of their feelings.
This pain usually happens when muscles in the back tighten. Muscles get tight after the muscles are tired and overworked.
When the muscles tighten, they produce a burning sensation. The muscles are basically being overexerted, and the burning sensation is the body’s way of telling you.
While this is the main cause of burning sensation in the back, it is one of many possible causes.
When should I get professional care?
A burning sensation in the back is very common, and the patient should usually get professional care to ensure that the pain is not an indication of something serious.
Most people don’t go to the doctor right away, though. Many people allow the pain to go away on their own or live with the pain for as long as they can. When do you know it’s a serious problem that needs immediate attention?
You need to go to a doctor immediately if the problem has been persistent or was caused by a serious injury.
A fever, incontinence, and weak legs combined with the burning sensation are also a cause for immediate care because these can be indications of a more serious problem.
Anatomy of the Back
According to Spine-Health, Before we go into detail about burning sensations in the back, it’s important to understand the anatomy of the human back.
If we understand the anatomy of the back and how things work, it will make it easier to understand what’s truly going on with your body when you have back pain.
The spine is divided into four sections: the cervical spine, thoracic spine, lumbar spine, and the sacral region.
Each region has vertebrae, and the vertebrae are connected by facet joints. These joints allow for movement of the individual vertebrae.
The vertebrae are also separated by discs to prevent them from rubbing against one each another. The discs also help support the vertebrae.
The spinal cord starts at your skill and is the length of your skull to the joint at T12- L1, and it is there to connect your back to your brain.
The four areas of the spine
The cervical spine is the neck, and it supports the head and protects the spinal cord and nerves.
Most neck pain results from a strain of a muscle, ligament, or tendon in that region. The strain can be caused by a herniated disc or foraminal stenosis.
Most often, pain in the neck doesn’t require surgery or extensive treatment unless it lasts for an extensive period of time.
The thoracic spine (upper back) consists of twelve vertebrae that are protected by the rib cage. The rib cage prevents this is from moving very much.
In congruence with the rib cage, the spine helps protect vital organs in this area as well.
Since the upper back doesn’t move very much, most pain derives from problems in nearby areas of the body, such as the shoulders.
The lumbar spine (lower back) holds the most weight and moves much more freely; therefore, this area of the back sees the most injuries. The L4 – L5 vertebra and the L5
– S1 vertebrae are the ones most at risk to herniate. It’s important to get these problems handled as quickly as possible so that they don’t turn into more serious problems.
The sacral region (back of the pelvis) is attached to the iliac bones of the pelvis with sacroiliac joints. This is where we have the part of the spine known as the tailbone (coccydynia).
Most injuries in this area occur because of trauma or illness (osteoporosis or rheumatoid arthritis) because this area is relatively strong.
The spinal cord allows the brain to connect with the rest of the spine. It starts at the top of the neck and stops at the end of the thoracic spine.
This spinal cord is where the nerves of the spine are attached. There are 8 cervical nerves, 12 thoracic nerves, 5 lumbar nerves, 5 sacral nerves, and 1 coccygeal nerve.
If the spinal cord is severely injured, it can cause paralysis. Depending on where the spinal cord is injured, the more or less movement the patient will have.
Anatomic causes of back pain:
As we mentioned, tired and tight muscles are a big cause of back pain. Other causes include pinched nerves, inflamed nerves, deteriorating nerves, injured bones, degenerated joints, and degenerated discs.
Causes of burning sensation in the back
It’s extremely important to find the cause of the pain in order to treat the problem correctly.
There are a number of reasons that someone will experience a burning sensation in their back.
Some of the most common causes are nerve damage, injury, illness, poor posture, obesity, aging, and infections. Here is the list of possible causes:
We have 31 pairs of nerves in our back. When one gets pinched, it will cause the burning sensation we are discussing in a specific location on the back. Different things will happen when different nerves are pinched.
The neck nerves are the highest nerves associated with your back.
C5- a pinched C5 nerve can cause pain, weakness, and numbness in the shoulder.
C6- a pinched C6 nerve can cause pain, weakness, and numbness in the bicep and wrist extenders.
C7 – a pinched C7 can cause pain or numbness down the arm to the middle finger.
C8- a pinched C8 can cause dysfunction, pain, and numbness of the hand.
The L5 nerve and S1 nerve are the two back nerves most commonly pinched.
L5- this nerve helps people move their feet and big toe.
A pinched L5 can result in numbness or weakness of the foot and big toe.
S1- a pinched S1 nerve can make it more difficult for your calf to push your foot.
Pinched nerves do not heal quickly.
The best method to cure a pinched nerve is to give it time to heal and not putting much pressure on the affected area.
You may also want to take a painkiller with anti-inflammatory properties.
There are generally three types of muscles that contribute to spinal health: extensor muscles, flexor muscles, and oblique muscles.
Extensor muscles are located at the back of the spine. Examples of these include the erector spine and gluteal muscles.
These are the muscles usually used for support and lifting. Flexor muscles are located on the front of the spine.
As the name indicates, these muscles allow for people to move freely and bend.
Oblique muscles are attached to the side of the spine, and they help with twisting your body.
These are also the muscles that people target to help eliminate love handles. If you’re looking to strengthen your back, these are the muscle groups that you want to target.
A very large amount of back problems are caused by muscle problems. When a muscle is weak, it will tighten when used. This will cause pain. Could this be a rhomboid muscle pain?
When people feel pain, they tend to avoid using the muscles. In turn, the muscles become weaker causing more back serious back problems.
Rather than avoiding the problem entirely, it’s best to work out these muscles in a controlled manner to strengthen them.
While the muscles need to be used, it’s also important to make sure that you don’t overwork your muscles and strain them.
After a car accident or a fall, you may notice that your back is experiencing problems.
Back problems that derive from injury vary greatly depending on what happened and how severe the incident was.
It’s important to note that back problems might not develop immediately after the trauma. Pain can develop days or weeks later.
Even if you don’t feel pain initially, it’s a good idea to go to a doctor immediately after an accident so that you can be examined properly.
As we get older, the discs that cushion our vertebrae will dehydrate. This can cause pain when the proteins in the disc leak out and cause inflammation of the nerves in the surrounding area.
Certain injuries can also cause a problem with your discs. While manageable, the problem will only get worse with age.
It may even contribute to additional back problems including spinal stenosis, osteoarthritis, scoliosis, and spondylolisthesis.
There are a number of serious illnesses that can affect your back.
Osteoporosis is a disease mostly associated with the bones becoming weak. This will also affect the back and spine. Older women are the demographic affected by the disease most often.
Shingles also generally occur in older people, and it will affect the nerves, causing the pain. There are a variety of other symptoms associated with shingles that will make it easy to diagnose.
As a child, you may have had your parents or teachers encourage you to stand up straight and demonstrate good posture.
This was better advice than you might have realized. Developing good posture can help your back healthy in the long run.
Alternatively, poor posture can cause back pain by putting your back in unnatural positions. This can make your back strain harder than necessary, wearing down the muscles.
Because poor posture can be such an important factor in back pain, people who have sleeping disorders will have problems.
Many people with sleeping disorders don’t sleep in a comfortable position. Sometimes, solving sleeping problems can eliminate the burning sensation.
Obesity is a serious problem in the United States. According to CNN, almost 40% of adults in our country are obese.
All of these people are at higher risk of developing back problems because of the strain the extra weight puts on the body. Obesity will generally cause strain on the lower back.
When we get older, our muscles start to deteriorate. This applies to our back muscles as well.
After a time, the warn muscles will tighten up and start to create a burning sensation.
While people of any age can experience back problems, it’s especially common in older people.
Bones and muscles can’t keep up forever, and the back is one of the first signs of that inevitable fact.
Many people don’t think that a simple infection can cause back problems. The most common infections that will cause lower back pain include pelvic inflammatory disease, bladder infections, and kidney infections.
The reason that these infections cause back pain is that of the proximity to the lower back.
Mostly affecting your lower back muscles, an imbalanced pelvis can really cause you a problem. This happens with the excessive use of the pelvis or trauma to the pelvis.
This is generally the cause of the most painful sensations in the lower back. The lower back is connected to the pelvis, so it makes sense that there’s such a direct connection.
If blood isn’t getting to your back for some reason, it will cause the tissue in that area to die.
When the tissue dies, the nerves die. In extreme cases, the tissue may be completely ruined to the point of permanent immobility or death.
Some people are born with disorders that affect the shape of the spine and create back problems.
Some of these conditions include scoliosis, kyphosis, and lordosis. Scoliosis is a disease in which a person’s spine has a side curvature that most people don’t.
Kyphosis can be caused by osteoporosis and is characterized by a forward unnatural curve.
Lordosis occurs when the back is bent backward. These problems vary in severity.
Some people may require surgeries and back braces to fix the problem, while others may only experience minor discomfort.
Often found in people who strain their back regularly at work, this is an inflammation of the nerve root because of constant trauma to the spinal column.
This generally happens after a long time, and this may be cause for the patient to change their role at work or change jobs to prevent the problem from getting worse.
Diagnosis of a Burning Sensation in the Back
If you have burning back pain, you will need a professional to diagnose your condition.
Your doctor will probably give you a physical exam and then may also utilize testing to verify your condition after localizing the pain.
Some of the imaging testings may include a CT scan, MRI scan, ultrasound, and/ or X-ray. These images will allow your doctor to see any damage to your spine.
If your spine isn’t physically damaged, you and your doctor will look into what the cause of the problem may be.
Bone scans, EMG, and blood tests may also help in making a proper diagnosis. Bone scans can especially help diagnose tumors or other signs of osteoporosis. Blood tests will be able to detect an infection.
Finding the cause or causes of the burning sensation in your back is instrumental in your treatment plan and how you will move forward with your treatment.
Treatment of burning sensation in back
It’s important to remember that a burning sensation in your back is generally an indication of a larger problem.
Rather than treating the burning sensation itself, your doctor will attempt to treat the cause of the burning sensation.
For this reason, treatment will vary greatly depending on the cause. Once your doctor determines the cause or the causes of your pain, a treatment plan becomes easy.
Before settling on a plan, talk to your insurance company about what procedures will be covered so that you can make the decisions that best fit into your budget.
The most common treatment includes pain medication to manage the pain, surgery, therapy, and changes in the patient’s daily routine.
Before you go to the doctor…
Before professional treatment, there are several things that you can do at home to help you with your condition. The first thing is to lose weight if you are overweight.
Eating healthier and exercising will reduce the amount of stress you put on your back, reducing the pain. You may also want to improve your posture.
Not only will good posture make you appear more confident, but it will reduce the strain on your back. You can also change the way that you sleep. Try heat and rest to see if that helps, too.
Many people are looking to Eastern medicine to find a solution to their problems. There are a variety of herbs that claim to help with back problems.
Many people have also found success with acupuncture. Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese treatment of inserting thin needles into specific points in the body.
Many studies have shown that it can provide momentary relief for people with long-lasting pain, particularly in the lower back by aligning an imbalanced Qi.
While there is little evidence to support these claims, many people find that it is worth exploring, especially if the patient doesn’t want to use medication and surgery yet.
Many chiropractors are trained in spinal manipulation that can help alleviate mild to moderate pain.
Chiropractors will apply the appropriate amount of force to a specific spinal joint.
Many people find that they experience less pain and high mobility, but there is a certain amount of risk associated with the treatment.
Most of the risk is associated with temporary pain, so the risk is generally well worth the reward.
Many medical professionals have seen progress after injecting their patients with cortisone or botox in the affected area.
Cortisone injections reduce the amount of swelling in the desired area. Botox will ultimately paralyze the affected area so that it won’t be overworked.
According to WebMD, When over the counter medications aren’t working, it’s time to talk to your doctor about stronger prescriptions to helping alleviate the pain.
Most doctors will prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Popular options include Celebrex, Voltaren, Mobic, and Relafen.
These medications aren’t overly strong, but it’s still important to talk to your doctor about possible side effects.
If NSAIDs aren’t working, your doctor may prescribe muscle relaxants such as Flexeril, Zanaflex, Lioresal, and Soma.
Finally, in extreme cases, the doctor may prescribe opioids or narcotics such as Hydrocodone or Tylenol with Codeine.
Opioids and narcotics have some serious consequences if not monitored properly. Some people may even become dependent, so patients should only go this route as a last resort.
Recently, there have been more advances in medications. Many can also come in a cream that won’t have the same risks as oral medication.
There are a number of surgeries that your doctor might recommend. Some of the most common surgeries include a laminectomy, laminotomy, and a diskectomy.
During a laminectomy, the surgeon will take out the back wall of the vertebrae.
In a laminotomy, the surgeon will take out part of the lamina. In a diskectomy, the surgeon will take out part of the spinal disk.
Surgeries will likely require extensive recovery and do not always provide the desired results, so it’s important to only undergo surgery if it’s a serious infliction.
Age and a variety of other reasons could possibly disqualify someone as a candidate for surgery, so be sure to disclose any and all conditions and medications to your doctor.
According to Cure Back Pain, Knowledge therapy is a new form of understanding back pain that attempts to explain how complicated our bodies truly are.
Sometimes, the burning sensation doesn’t derive from only one direct cause. Instead, the pain can be a combination of multiple problems.
In particular, knowledge theory attempts to illustrate how important the subconscious mind is to our physical well-being.
While not using traditional medicine, the theory is based on science and is supported by most medical professionals today.
It also helps patients gain a more general understanding of their health in a larger sensor which will help with much more than back pain.
Is a burning sensation on the back a symptom of MS?
According to the Mayo Clinic, Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease that affects the spinal cord, so many people make an association between MS and back pain.
There are varying degrees of MS depending on how many nerves are affected, but many people are able to walk by themselves.
About half of people with MS will say that they experienced some sort of pain during their illness.
Sometimes, this can be directly from the MS itself, but it can also be caused by stress put on the body related to other MS symptoms.
It’s important for people with MS to manage their condition to avoid additional problems associated with a burning sensation in the back.
Furthermore, people with MS need to tell their doctor about any back pain that they are experiencing because it could be indicative of complications with the MS.
Some back problems are inevitable. However, there are a number of ways that you can prevent or minimize back problems before they happen. Don’t wait until it’s too late!
Follow some of these tips to keep your back young and healthy.
One of the best ways to prevent a burning sensation in your back is to practice good posture. Keep your back upright and straight when possible.
This is particularly important when you are sitting down. You may even want to consider using a supportive pillow or changing the way you sit at your desk at work.
Maintain a good weight
Obesity is a direct cause of back problems. If you know that you fall into the “obese” category, consider going on a diet.
Generally speaking, if you have a BMI of over 30, you are considered obese. Eat foods with high amounts of vitamin B12 and omega fatty acids.
Eliminate processed foods, foods cooked in oil, and foods high in fat and cholesterol. You may also see additional benefits in your heart health and appearance.
One of the best ways to keep your back healthy and strong is to exercise. In particular, you want to work out your back muscles and your core.
There are a variety of exercises that can be completed quickly and easily from your own home if you don’t have a membership to a gym.
Try press-up back extensions, bridges, and pelvic tilts. If you’re having trouble, hire a trainer to help you.
Lift things properly
A lot of back damage derives from picking things up incorrectly.
According to WebMD, here are some tips to ensure that you don’t hurt your back while lifting something:
- get help if you need it
- use your leg muscles instead of your back muscles
- bend at your knees
- keep your feet spread apart
- Stop smoking!
There’s absolutely no reason to smoke with the information that we have nowadays.
To add to the already enormous list of ways that smoking is bad for you, smoking can also contribute to back problems.
Buy the right shoes
At a certain point, your health becomes more important than appearance. Ditch the high heels because they are horrible for back health.
Consider buying shoes that will help support your back as well! There are a variety of shoes that are made to help with posture and maintaining spinal health.
Men and women all over the world complain about a burning sensation in their back. Knowledge is power, and the more you know about your condition, the more you can do to help alleviate the pain to the best of your ability.
Like most problems, it’s important to work on your back health before you experience a problem. Do this by developing good habits and working your back muscles.
Also, when you start to notice a problem, get professional help as quickly as possible.
Remember that some pain may be inevitable, but you can learn exercises to help strengthen your muscles and minimize the pain.
If that doesn’t work, there are a variety of avenues to try. For constant, intense pain, talk to your doctor about prescription medication and surgery.
Even if it seems like an impossible case, you can move on with your life with as little pain as possible.