During our lives many of us will suffer with back pain. For some it will last only a few days but for others Back Pain can last for weeks and months, for some it is a lifetime companion. Back pain is a very common problem. It usually feels like an ache, tension or stiffness in your back.
The most common backache is experienced in the lower back, pain can be caused by bad posture while sitting or standing, bending awkwardly, or lifting incorrectly. Being obese can also be a contributing factor. For most people it is not serious and it gets better within 1-2 months. The doctor may not be able to attribute one particular thing that caused the back pain, this type of back pain is called non-specific back pain
Pain relief can be in the form of Paracetamol or Ibuprofen. There are also various gels containing Ibuprofen that are available over the counter or the use of heat patches may help. You should try to remain as active as possible and continue with your daily activities as keeping mobile and gentle stretches may also help to alleviate the pain.
Back Pain can be felt anywhere along your spine, from your neck down to your hips. If your back pain is so intense that you cannot move or it seems to be lasting more than a few days without any sign of improvement you should go and see your doctor. If your experience, numbness or pins and needles a trip to the doctor or hospital is also advised.
You should contact your doctor as soon as possible if you experience any of the following symptoms or are uncertain about anything.
Under 20 or over 50 and are experiencing back pain for the first time.
Have an existing medical condition.
Experience fever, and or sickness.
Unexplained weight loss.
Numbness or weakness in one or both legs or around your buttocks, your genitals, or back passage.
Constant pain, particularly at night and or back pain that doesn’t ease after lying down.
Pain in more than one place on your spine.
Swelling in the back.
Pain in your chest or high up in your back.
Pain down your legs and below the knees.
Loss of bladder or bowel control.
Inability to pass urine.
Back pain can have other causes besides stiffness and fatigue, it could be caused by damage to the spine. Your spine holds your head up and gives you flexibility to bend and move whilst giving support.
Your spine is made up of three sections, the cervical spine (neck), the thoracic spine (chest) and the lumbar spine (lower back). These sections form natural curves, kyphosis (Greek-hump) at the thoracic spine and Lordosis which refers to the natural inward curve of the lumbar and cervical spine.
Your spine is made up of small bones, called vertebrae, which are stacked on top of one another and create the natural curves of your back. These create a protective canal for your spinal cord. Between the vertebrae are the Inter-vertebral disks, they are flat and round, and about a half inch thick. Any more is beyond the scope of this article and further reading is recommended. In effect the disks act as shock absorbers to the spine. Injuries or degenerative changes to the spine can cause immense pain and in severe cases disability and paralysis.
Injuries and damage to the spine could be due to;
A slipped (herniated) disc – when a disc bulges so that it puts pressure on your spinal nerves.
A fracture – a crack or break in one of the bones in your back.
Osteoporosis – a condition where bones lose density causing them to become weak and compress.
Spinal stenosis – a condition in which the channels that house your spinal column or nerves in your spine narrow.
Spondylolisthesis – when one of your back bones slips forward and out of position.
Degenerative disc disease – when the discs in your spinal cord gradually become worn down.
Osteoarthritis – a wear-and-tear disease that can particularly affect the joints of your spine.
Rheumatoid arthritis – an inflammatory condition in which your immune system causes. Inflammation of the lining of your joints and surrounding structures
Any of these conditions would need expert medical attention. Your doctor may be able to give you measures to follow that would help to reduce the pain and discomfort. For certain types of persistent back pain, conditions and injuries, surgery may be required. Spinal surgery is usually only considered when all else has failed.
For less serious backache a lot can be done to prevent further injury and reduce pain.
Back pain the world over is responsible for lost days, time off work and costs people time and money not forgetting the discomfort. Looking after your back is vital, especially if you want to avoid injuries due to incorrect lifting, poor posture and weak supporting muscles. Why suffer when something can be done?
Although it could be said to be “easier said than done” try to be positive and have a good state of mind. Research indicates that people with a positive approach recover faster. (source NHS UK website)
For back pain that lasts more than six weeks (which doctors describe as chronic), treatment typically involves a combination of painkillers and either acupuncture, exercise classes or manual therapy.
Your posture when you sit, stand and lie can affect the health of your back as can the way you lift.
Injuries to the back at work are common and many companies invest hundreds of thousands of pounds in lifting courses in an attempt to avoid injuries and law suits.
Never try and lift too much weight and put too much pressure on to your back as it could be a decision you regret for the rest of your life. Engage in regular exercise, such as walking and swimming to help to build a strong and supple back. This is an excellent way of preventing back pain. Try Yoga or Pilates these activities can help to improve your flexibility and strengthen your back muscles.