Back pain is the most common of problems among patients seeking an appointment at 1Health Medical Center for consultation with the orthopedist.
Anyone can be afflicted with back pain for a multitude of reasons, and age is not a restriction to be stricken down with back pain. Back pain may be a result of an injury, an activity that went wrong, or it also could be the result of some medical conditions. It is a fact that the elderly, or simply said, anyone can be prone to lower back pain as one gets older. Back pain in the elderly may be a result of the strains of the occupation they were formerly engaged in, or it could also be a result of some degenerative disk disease.
The regions responsible for lower back pain could involve any of the following:
discs between the vertebrae
spinal cord and nerves
abdominal and pelvic internal organs
skin around the lumbar area
bony lumbar spine
ligaments around the spine and discs
lower back muscles
Pain in the upper back
Upper back pain may be a result of the disorders affecting the aorta, it could also be a result of tumors in the chest region, and the inflammation of the spine could also be a very strong reason.
Back pain and its causes
It's the resulting structure involving the ligaments, disks, bones, muscles and tendons that makes up the human back, and it's when these individual components work in unison that the body is able to support itself, and mobility is achieved.
Disks are the cartilage-like pads that cushion the segments of the spine.
Any problem that arises in any of the components discussed above can result in back pain. There are also instances when the reason for back pain remains unestablished.
At times the components of the back discussed before, are prone to damage, and the reasons for damage could be the result of bad posturing habits, strain, and may also be a result of certain medical conditions.
The role of strain on back pain
Strain is a common factor for back pain. Tension and injury are also other factors. It's noticed that strained ligaments or even muscles, spasms of the muscles, tension in muscle, damage to disks, fractures or other injuries, are all prominent reasons for back pain.
Spasms and strains can be a result of the following activities:
inaccurate or erroneous ways of lifting objects
lifting objects that are considerably heavy
making movements that are jerky and sudden
Back pain as a result of structural problems
Pain can be a result of the following:
Rupturing of disks: Disks are those structures that cushion the vertebrae of the spine. The rupturing of these disks can lead to pressure on the nerve, and it results in back pain.
Bulged disk: This condition too, similar to a ruptured disk, leads to considerable pressure on the nerve, as a result of the bulging disk, thus resulting in back pain.
Sciatica: This is a painful condition that results from pressure on the nerve due to the bulging disk, or herniated disk pressing on to it. The shooting pain radiates along the sciatic nerve's pathway, that's from the buttock and down to the back of one's legs.
Arthritis: Osteoarthritis affects the lower back along with the joints of the hips, and also certain other places. A condition known as spinal stenosis can also arise due to the lowering of the space around the spinal cord.
Abnormality in the curvature of the spine:
Back pain can also be a result of unusual curvature of the spine as in the case of scoliosis.
Osteoporosis: This is a condition that arises when bones of the body become porous and brittle, and this condition can affect the spine's vertebrae as well. Bones afflicted by the condition are prone to compression fractures.
Kidney ailments: Medical conditions affecting the kidneys like kidney stones, or infections of the kidney can also result in back pain.
Back pain as a result of movement and posture
Wrong postures while using computers, especially working on the computer seated in a hunched posture, has come to be the number one culprit for back and shoulder related pain.
It's also noticed that back pain can be a result of bad postures and also can be associated with one's daily activities, like:
forceful movements while sneezing, or coughing
having to bend in awkward positions and remaining so for long durations
having to push, lift, carry, or pull some objects
being seated or in standing position for long periods
straining one's neck to remain in a forward position as when driving or working on a computer
driving for long periods without taking breaks in between
sleeping without supporting the body properly or keeping the spine in a straight position
Numerous other causes that results in back pain:
Cauda Equina Syndrome: This is a result of the compression of the nerve roots of the cauda equina whereby there is a resulting disruption of the motor and sensory functions in one's lower extremities and the bladder. People afflicted with this condition experience a dull pain in the lower back and upper sections of their buttocks. They also experience numbness in the regions of buttocks, genitalia, and thighs. Bowel and bladder functions are also disturbed.
Spine cancer: Back pain can result from a nerve that's pressed by a tumor on the spine.
Other kinds of infection: Infections of the kidney, bladder, or pelvic inflammatory disease can lead to back pain.
Sleep disorder related: Back pain is associated with individuals having sleep disorders.
Shingles: Back pain can result when the infection affects certain nerves.
Risk factors associated with back pain
The factors listed below are linked with back pain and there's a higher risk attached of developing back pain:
occupation related activities
sedentary type of lifestyle
lack of physical fitness
wrong exercises and extensive workouts
factors related to genetics
arthritis and cancer kind of medical conditions
Lower back pain is known to affect women more than men. It's believed hormones have a role to play for such a shift. That apart, mood disorders, stress and anxiety are also associated with inducing back pain.
The symptom of back pain is pain anywhere in the back. The pain may also extend all the way from the buttocks to the legs.
Depending on the nerves affected, back pain may lead to pain in other parts of the body. Such pain usually goes away without need for any specific treatment, but if there's recurrence of pain with any of the following symptoms, it is best that they consult a doctor without any further delay:
loss of weight
swelling or inflammation of the back
persistent back pain which has no relief with rest
pain affecting the legs
pain affecting sections below the knee
recent injury, or trauma that affected the back
incontinence with urination
fecal incontinence, trouble with control over bowel movements
numbness in area around the genitals
numbness in area around the anus
numbness in area around the buttocks
Seeking the help of a doctor
Seek the help of a doctor immediately if you are experiencing numbness or tingling, or if your back pain:
refuses to wane with rest
resulted from a fall
is associated with numbness of the legs
is associated with weakness
is associated with fever
is associated with out of the ordinary weight loss
The doctor makes a diagnosis of the back pain usually by asking questions in relation to the symptoms and also by conducting a physical examination.
The doctor may suggest for an imaging scan if:
the back pain is a result of a recent injury
an underlying cause needs treatment
there is a persistent pain stretched over a longer time period
MRI, CT Scan, or X-Ray are used to gain more information with relation to the state of affairs of the soft tissues of the back.
X-Rays: are capable of revealing signs of arthritis, and can be used to visualize the alignment of the bones. It can also detect fractures. X-Rays are not capable of assessing damage to muscles, nerves, disks, or spinal cord.
MRI or CT scans: They can reveal problems in relation to tendons, nerves, blood vessels, ligaments, bones, and muscles. They are also capable of revealing herniated disks.
Bone scans: Osteoporosis related compression fractures are revealed by bone scans. They can also detect cancer of the bone. The scan uses a radioactive substance called the tracer, which is injected into a vein. The tracer eventually collects in the bones. A special camera is then used by the doctor to detect bone problems by examining the tracer deposits.
Electromyography or EMG is a measure of electrical impulses produced by nerves as a response to muscle movement. The test is used to confirm nerve compression which is usually associated with a spinal stenosis or a herniated disk.
Blood tests are also advised by the doctor if there's a suspicion of an infection.
Types of back pain
Back pain is categorized into two types:
Such a pain develops suddenly and will last up to 6 weeks.
It is pain that develops over a long period of time, and may last for over 3 months. The pain is known to cause ongoing problems.
Doctors at times have difficulties distinguishing between the pains, if the patient has intermittent bouts of intense pain and extended periods of mild back pain.
Treatment for back pain
Rest and certain home remedies usually resolves back pain, but there are instances when medical treatment becomes mandatory.
It is always safe to consult an orthopedist when you are in pain. An orthopedist will take measures to diagnose the cause and chart out a treatment plan to relieve you of the pain.
Preventing back pain
You could lower your chances of developing back pain by addressing the risk factors as listed in the following:
Smokers are known to be prone to back pain in comparison to non-smokers who belong to the same category of age, weight and height.
One's body weight plays a significant factor in developing back pain. People who are obese are more prone to back pain than who have their weight in control. People who have more of their body weight concentrated around the abdominal area as against the weight building around the buttocks and the hip region are also at a greater risk of developing back pain.
Your standing posture
The right posture while standing is to stand upright with the back straight, and head facing forward. It is important to ensure that the body weight is balanced evenly between both of your feet. Ensure to keep your legs straight, and align your head in line with your spine.
Your sitting posture
While working ensure you are seated in a chair than provides ample back support and has arm rests. While seated ensure that you have your knees and hips in level and keep your feet flat on the ground.
While lifting weights it is your legs that should do the lifting than your back. Please follow the right technique to lift weights. If you are not confident about lifting the weight, avoid doing so. Lifting weights the wrong way can hurt your back pretty bad.
Ensure that your back is well supported during long drives. Ensure that the rear view mirrors are positioned in a way that you need not indulge in any kind of twisting and turning to get a proper view of the rear while driving. While on a long drive ensure that you include a lot of breaks throughout the drive. Take a walk and relieve your back during the breaks.
Sleep on a mattress that helps keep your spine in a straight position. It should also at the same time ensure that the weight of your shoulders and buttocks is well supported. Use a comfortable pillow to support your head.