An estimated 8 out of 10 people suffer from back pain, making it the most common medical problem. Symptoms can be from a minor muscle ache to a sharp pain, limited range in motion and the inability to stand up straight. It can come suddenly, from an accident or lifting something heavy. It can also develop slowly due to the result of age related changes in the spinal cord.
Back pain is one of our society's most common medical problem and chances are that if you don’t have it yet, you might experience it someday. Regardless of how back pain feels, you will know when you are suffering from it.
Back pain usually originates from the muscles, joints, nerves and bones in the spinal cord. The spinal cord is a complex network of muscles, nerves, joints and tendons which can all be factors in producing back pain. The pain is often divided into neck pain, lower back pain, upper back pain or tailbone pain. Individuals can also experience pain in the arms and legs because large nerves from the spine extend into these parts of the body.
Approximately 98% of back pain patients are diagnosed with nonspecific acute back pain. The remaining 2% of back pain may be caused by an underlying condition such as metastatic cancer, spinal osteomyelitis and epidural abscess. Also, herniated disc is the most common neurologic impairment which is associated with this condition.
Acute or short term low back pain generally lasts from a few days up to a few weeks. It is usually the result of trauma to the lower back or Arthritis.
Pain from Trauma can be caused by:
- A sudden jolt such as a car accident
- Stress on the spinal bone or tissues
- Sports injury
- Routine work around the house
Back pain usually goes away with or without treatment. However, back pain can also be a sign of a serious medical problem:
- Progressive weakness in the legs
- Severe pain which interrupts sleep and causes serious illness such as a high fever and unexplained weight loss
- Back pain after a fall or an accident may indicate a fracture or other serious injury
- Individuals with a history of cancer should seek medical attention at the earliest to rule out chances of metastatic cancer which is known to spread to the spine
- Bowel or bladder incontinence
An individual suffering from back pain can experience the following symptoms:
- The pain may radiate to the front, side or back of your legs or stay confined to the lower back.
- The pain may become worse with activity
- The pain may worsen at night or with prolonged sitting such as a long car trip
- Numbness or weakness in the legs
- Experience pain when trying to stand on your toes or bringing your foot downward.
The goal of treatment is to restore proper function and avoid recurrence of injury. Most back pain can be treated without surgery, some of the treatment for back pain includes:
- Use of non prescription pain relievers to get rid of discomfort and anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce inflammation. Effective back pain medication can also involve prescription drugs.
- Use of hot and cold therapy to reduce pain while allowing greater mobility. Although the use of compresses has not been scientifically proven for back treatment.
- Bed rest for 1 to 2 days at most.
- Exercises which can help strengthen lower back and abdominal muscles.
- Due to musculoskeletal injuries in serious conditions, surgery can relieve pain if other therapies fail.
The theory behind back pain prevention is somewhat controversial. It has long been said that exercise and general good health can prevent back pain. This is not necessarily true and several studies have showed that high impact activities increase the chance of back pain while low impact activities such as cycling, swimming can increase fitness without straining the lower back.
To avoid back pain people should:
- Lift objects properly
- Stretching often can also alleviate tight back muscles
- Workers who frequently perform heavy lifting are often required to wear lumbar support belts.
- Maintain correct posture. While standing, keep your head up and stomach in. High heels are not recommended.
- Sleeping properly can also prevent back pain but individual needs vary, if the mattress is too soft, a person might suffer from a back ache and same is the case for a hard mattress. A piece of plywood between the box spring and mattress will stiffen a soft bed. A thick mattress pad will help soften a mattress that is too hard.
- Engage in exercises that don’t strain or jolt the lower back area. Abdominal crunches when done properly may decrease the tendency to suffer from back pain.
Applying ergonomic principles in home and office can also reduce the risk of back injury and help maintain a healthy back.