Back pain: overview, symptoms and treatment

By January 20, 2021March 18th, 2021No Comments
Back AcheBone & Joint HealthHealth

What is Back Pain?

Back pain is a common medical issue affecting the spine and the surrounding tissues. The pain can take place because of sore muscles, ligaments, and tendons, or from herniated disks, fractures, and other problems in your upper, middle, and lower back.

It is a condition that can occur across age groups but is more common in older adults due to poor posture or degenerative disk disease.

What are the causes of Back Pain?

The segments of human spine are cushioned with cartilage-like pads called the disks. The other parts of the back are composed of a complex structure of muscles, ligaments, tendons, and bones, which work together to support the body and enable us to move around. Any issue with any of the parts can result into damage.

The following are the main causes of back pain:

1. Strain:

  • Strained muscles or ligaments
  • Muscle spasm
  • Muscle tension
  • Injuries or falls
  • Damaged discs

A strain can occur while lifting something heavy in an improper manner or a jerk movement.

2. Structural problems:

  • Ruptured disks: If a disk ruptures, it can put pressure on the nerves creating pain
  • Bulging disks: A bulging disk can also create more pressure on a nerve
  • Sciatica: A sharp and shooting pain travels through the buttock and down the back of the leg, caused by a bulging or herniated disk pressing on a nerve
  • Arthritis: Osteoarthritis can create problems with the joints in the hips, lower back, and other places causing pain
  • Abnormal spine curvature: If the spine curves in an abnormal way, it can create pain
  • Osteoporosis: Osteoporosis causes bones to become brittle and porous, causing back pain.

3. Movement and posture:

  • Over- stretching
  • Twisting
  • Coughing or sneezing
  • Bending for long periods
  • Pushing, pulling or lifting something
  • Standing or sitting for long periods
  • Straining the neck forward, such as when driving or using a computer
  • Long driving sessions without a break, even when not hunched
  • Sleeping on a mattress that does not support the body and keep the spine straight

What are the risk factors for Back Pain?

The following risk factors are related to back pain:

  • Pregnancy
  • Old age
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Smoking
  • Poor physical fitness
  • Strenuous physical exercise
  • Genetic factors
  • Medical conditions
  • Obesity

What are the symptoms of Back Pain?

The obvious symptom of back pain is ache in any part of the back, which can sometimes occur in the hips and legs too. Other symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Numbness around the buttocks
  • Swelling in the back
  • Weight loss
  • Numbness in the anus
  • Pain that reaches the legs
  • No relief even after lying down or resting
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Fecal incontinence
  • Numbness around the genitals

How is Back Pain diagnosed?

Back pain is diagnosed in the following manner:

  • X-Rays: It can detect signs of fractures and alignment of bones
  • MRI: This can reveal herniated disks or problems with tissue, tendons, nerves, ligaments, blood vessels, muscles, and bones
  • Bine scans: It can detect tumors and compressions due to osteoporosis
  • Electromyography or EMG: This measured the electric response of nerves. It can confirm nerve compressions

How is Back Pain treated?

Back pain mostly goes away with a good amount of rest, but sometimes medical intervention is needed. If the pain does not recede with over the counter pain killers and resting, then your doctor may suggest you stronger medicines along with physical therapy to treat back aches. A physical therapist will give you exercises to improve posture and increase flexibility and back strength. Physical therapy may also include tractions, where pulleys are used to stretch the back. This is more common in case of a herniated disk.

Along with this, you can also apply a hot compress or ice pack to deal with your pain.

In very severe but rare cases, surgery may be performed, especially in case of herniated disk where back pain is persistent and there’s muscle fatigue. The type of surgery will depend on the doctor and the case.

How can you prevent Back Pain?

You can follow the below steps or prevent and also manage back pain:

  • Exercise: Regular exercise improves flexibility and strength. Weight training also increases bone density and muscle mass, reducing risk of osteoporosis and other degenerative bone diseases in the later stages of life. Include core strengthening exercises like plank in your routine.
  • Diet: Make sure your diet includes enough Vitamin D and calcium. After you cross 30, you should take vitamin supplements after a suggestion from your doctor.
  • Weight: Weight management is important to treat and prevent back pains. Extra weight puts more pressure on the back causing pain. Make sure you maintain a healthy body weight.
  • Smoking: Smokers are more prone to back aches than non-smokers. Quit smoking and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
  • Maintain correct posture: Maintain correct posture when standing, sitting and working. Your laptop should be at your eye level to avoid bending from the neck. Stand upright and distribute your weight equally between both your legs. When sitting, don’t slouch but sit upright. Use good back support.

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