Back pain is usually described generally as “pain.” Some may say their back aches or throbs. Sometimes, back pain can feel like a poke or spasm. Burning, however, is not a term that usually comes up outside of a comprehensive spinal exam. This type of back pain may feel alarming because it seems out of the ordinary compared to the other descriptive words we mentioned. In truth, several spinal conditions can cause this type of symptom.
Many of the symptoms that develop in the back, as well as along affected nerve paths, relate to compression on a nerve or nerves. We call this compression a pinched nerve. The spine is the protective housing of the spinal cord. From the main cord, numerous nerve roots branch off and travel through the bones of the spine out into the body. Where these nerves exit, they may meet a narrowed, compressed space. When a nerve is compressed, the signals that are sent to the brain may be misinterpreted, resulting in warmth or burning. Often, pinched nerves respond well to nonsurgical remedies such as rest, anti-inflammatory medication, and stretching. Sometimes, physical therapy is needed for more significant compression.
Sciatic Nerve Damage
Sciatic nerve pain, known as sciatica, is hard to miss. This burning sensation may not localize in the back but in the back of one or both legs. Discomfort may also include sharp, radiating pain that begins in the pelvic or hip area and spans down the leg. Because sciatica is often caused by a pinched sciatic nerve, rest, anti-inflammatory medication, stretching, and physical therapy are all treatment options to consider.
This type of compression involves a structural narrowing of the spinal canal. As space becomes more limited by this narrowing, the nerves exiting the spinal column may be pressed upon, delivering various pain sensations.
Burning and other pain sensations in the low back may stem from lumbar radiculitis, a condition related to arthritis or a herniated disc in the spine. Either of these structural problems can irritate the nerves exiting the spine, causing pain in the low back, buttocks, and legs (similar to sciatica). A doctor may recommend postural modifications, physical therapy, and medication to reduce painful inflammation.
Most of the types of spinal pain that occur do not require surgical intervention. When they do, a specialist like Dr. Todd Albert determines the best course of treatment based on a comprehensive spinal exam.