Globally, at least 40% people must have experienced back pain at some stage. It can impact person’s ability to function at an optimum level, both physically and mentally. But there is no reason to be depressed. There are several ways to fight back pain and this post intends to touch upon some of the best ways to relieve back pain. Firstly, let’s check the risk factors and causes of back pain, in order to gain a better understanding for managing back pain.
- Poor Posture
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Strenuous physical exercise (especially if not done correctly)
- Gender – Back pain is more common in females than in males
Causes of Back Pain
- Structural Problems
- Other Causes
- Postural problems
- Lifting something improperly or something that is too heavy
- Result of an abrupt movement
- Muscle spasm
Ruptured discs – There are discs in between successive vertebrae. If the discs rupture, there will be more pressure on a nerve, leading to back pain.
Bulging discs – A bulging disc can also lead to increased pressure.
Sciatica – A sharp pain traveling through the buttock and down the back of the leg, as a result of bulging or prolapsed intervertebral disc pressing on a nerve.
Abnormal curvature (spine) – If the spine curves in an unusual way, it can cause back pain, e.g. scoliosis.
- Compression fracture
- Spinal Stenosis
- Ankylosing Spondylitis
- Reactive Arthritis
- Psoriatic Arthritis
- Uterine Fibroids
- Bending awkwardly
- Lifting something
- Bending down for long periods
- Carrying something
The human vertebral column consists of 33 vertebrae. It is divided into different regions: cervical spine, thoracic spine, lumbar spine, sacrum, and coccyx. In all, there are 33 vertebrae in the vertebral column. There are 7 cervical vertebrae, 12 thoracic vertebrae, and 5 lumbar vertebrae. The upper 24 are separated from each other by intervertebral discs and the lower 9 are fused (5 in the sacrum and 4 in the coccyx or the tailbone).
Most back pain is felt in the lower back. The pain can be acute or chronic. Acute pain is something which lasts up to 3 months whereas chronic pain persists beyond that. Back pain can happen due to a variety of reasons. Quite often it is a lifestyle-related condition caused by obesity and bad postural habits. Improper seating positions, sedentary lifestyle, prolonged desk job, high-heeled shoes and certain occupations can contribute to this problem.
As already stated above, the spine is made up of many bones called vertebrae. Between each vertebra, there is a disc. The discs are strong, rubber-like which adds to the flexibility of the spine. A disc has two parts – a fibrous outer part and a jelly-like certain portion called nucleus pulposus. The spinal cord containing different nerves comes from the brain and is protected by the spine. Nerves from the spinal cord come out between the vertebrae to relay messages to and from different parts of the body. A prolapsed disc (slipped disc) does not actually slip. What happens is a portion of the softer inner part of the disc (the nucleus pulposus) bulges out through a weakness in the outer portion of the disc (herniated disc). The bulging disc may press upon nearby structures including nerve coming from the spinal cord, resulting in pain.
- Unintentional weight loss
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
- Loss of sensation in the buttocks
- Significant muscle weakness or sensory problems
Some of the best ways to relieve back pain
Physiologically – For acute back pain, low-to-moderate walking may be helpful. Heat therapies may be helpful. Heat therapies may be of some help in acute to subchronic low back pain. Exercise therapy is effective in reducing pain and improving function for those with chronic low back pain. Yoga has proven to be beneficial.
Medication – Short-term use of muscle relaxants is effective for acute back pain. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and paracetamol (acetaminophen) can also provide relief in such cases. However, use of medications for chronic back pain is debatable. Massage may be of some benefit in people who have had a prolonged period of back pain.
Surgery – Surgery is usually the last resort in case of back pain. It is only recommended in cases which have not responded well to conservative treatment and there is a significant loss of function.
The main procedures performed in cases of back pain are discectomy, spinal fusions, laminectomy, and vertebroplasty.
A discectomy is performed in a case of herniated or torn inter-vertebral disc. It involves the removal of either whole or a portion of the protruding disc which is pressing on the nerve root. The offending part of the disc material is removed through a small incision. It is one of the most common types of back surgeries performed with a considerably high rate of success.
Bed rest is not very helpful in back pain. In fact, it might exacerbate symptoms. If absolutely necessary, a rest of 1-2 days can be taken.
Prognosis – Generally, the outcome for low back pain is positive. Very few cases have high levels of disability and pain. For continuing back pain, the short-term prospects are positive with significant movement in the first 6 weeks but the level of improvement diminishes beyond that.
- Exercise regularly
- Reduce body weight
- Avoid smoking
- Be careful about your posture (the best chair for preventing back pain is the one with a straight back. Keep your knees slightly higher than your hips while seated)
- Avoid abrupt movements which can strain muscle and ligaments
- Try to avoid stress and anxiety which can exacerbate back pain
- Swimming is an excellent exercise to prevent or reduce back pain
- Avoid heavy weight lifting. If you lift something heavy, bend your knees and keep your back straight
- Don’t bend over from waist to lift heavy objects
- Avoid high heels
So, in a nutshell, maintaining the right lifestyle and reducing stress levels can go a long way in preventing or alleviating back pain.
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