Here is a little deeper research into back pain, including the causes as well as relief. The research was for my own reference of the terms used for most common back conditions. Since I often take my mom to the doctor, understanding a little background information is always a good thing.
Back pain inhibit millions of people each year, and an estimated 80% of us will experience back pain sometime in our lives. For some, the pain can be excruciating. Back pain can be caused by a large number of conditions or injuries. Back pain that occurs with other symptoms like fever and chills, severe abdominal pain or bladder and bowel problems can be an indication of a serious medical condition, and should be evaluated by your doctor immediately.
Back pain cause #1 – Musculoskeletal strains
Musculoskeletal disorders or strains are pain and injuries in the musculoskeletal system, including the joints, ligaments, muscles, nerves, tendons, and structures that support limbs, neck and back. The term musculoskeletal sounds complicated, so normally we can just call it muscle or ligament strains. The pain can arise from a sudden exertion (e.g., fall, lifting heavy objects) or from having the same motions or posture repeatedly (e.g., sitting or standing still, especially in a wrong posture, over-exercising the hip and back).
Musculoskeletal strains are more common among people who live sedentary lifestyles. Those with a higher level of physical fitness generally have stronger muscles in the back, legs and abdomen, all of which help support the back. Perhaps the most significant risk factor is obesity. The strain of carrying excess weight can contribute greatly to back pain. Regular exercise and a balanced diet can help control obesity, and reduce the frequency of back pain episodes.
For gifts or gift ideas that can help with back pain caused by muscle or ligament strains, check out my related post Gift ideas for back pain.
Back pain cause #2: Many conditions that can cause back pain other than musculoskeletal strains. They include:
- Arthritis, a disease that causes inflammation of the joints. Three types of arthritis that affect the spine are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and ankolyzing spondylitis.
- A herniated disc, or ruptured disc, occurs when the hard outer coating of the discs, the circular pieces of connective tissue that cushion the vertebrae, are damaged. These discs may leak, irritating nearby nerves. A herniated disk can cause severe sciatica, nerve pain that radiates down the leg.
- Spinal stenosis is a condition where the spinal canal narrows, compressing the nerves inside. It is often caused by bone spurs which are a result of osteoarthritis. Compression of the nerves can lead to pain, numbness in the legs and the loss of bladder or bowel control.
- Spondylolisthesis is a condition where a vertebra of the slips out of place. As the spine tries to stabilize itself, the joints between the slipped vertebra and adjacent vertebrae can become enlarged. This can pinch nerves, causing low back pain and severe sciatica leg pain.
- Vertebral fractures can be caused by trauma or by osteoporosis, a disease where the bones become fragile.
- Degenerative disc disease is an aging process where the discs between the vertebrae break down over time.
Want to know more about back pain causes? Visit the Mayo clinic website.
How to prevent back pain
- Simple lower back pain can be caused by straining the muscles, tendon or ligaments of the lower back. The most effective prevention is to take care as to how you lift heavy objects. Do not try to lift any significant weight by bending over the object. You should bend your knees and then lift with your legs. Avoid twisting your body while lifting. When moving heavy objects, pushing is less stressful than pulling. Routine activities, such as housework or gardening, can cause back pain. Avoid standing flat-footed while bent over.
- A sedentary lifestyle will contribute to back problems. Regular exercise will improve the flexibility and strength of the muscles which support your lower back. These include the abdominal muscles, as well as those in the legs and back. A simple exercise routine can help prevent back pain throughout your life.
- Obesity is a common cause of back pain. Aerobic exercise can help manage weight concerns. Swimming, jogging or even walking are all activities that will help you lose weight and feel better.
- In addition to exercise, a proper diet is essential in managing your weight. However, there are also two nutrients, calcium and vitamin D, that help build healthy and strong bones and prevent osteoporosis, which can cause bone fractures that lead to back pain.
- Many people whose jobs involve sitting for long periods of time experience back pain. It is important to get up and move around regularly. If driving for long periods of time, take the time to stop and get out of your vehicle. Stretching your muscles and improving blood flow to your lower body will help prevent back pain, as well as help keep you alert for the rest of your trip.
- Changing the position in which you sleep can also help prevent back pain. The best positions are either to sleep lying on your side with your legs bent, or lying on your back with a pillow under your knees. A firm mattress is usually the best bet. A sheet of plywood can be placed between the box spring and the mattress in order to increase the firmness of your bed.
Back pain treatment
Back pain may be relieved with a variety of techniques. For most common occurrences of back pain, a regiment of rest, hot and cold compresses, exercise and therapy, as well as various pain medications can be used to reduce the pain and provide a level of comfort.
- Hot and cold compresses, used separately or by alternating, can have great benefit in reducing back pain. Heat is used to relax the muscles. It works by dilating the blood vessels, which improves the flow of oxygen to the affected area and reduces pain and muscle spasms. Cold packs are used to reduce inflammation, such as that from arthritis or injury. This works by decreasing the size of blood vessels and the flow of blood to the area. It is important to avoid prolonged application of either heat or cold packs, especially near the organs found in the abdominal cavity.
- Exercising is of great benefit both to someone suffering from back pain and for anyone hoping to avoid it in the future. If you are suffering from acute back pain, exercising may not be possible or even a good idea. However, for chronic back pain, a regular exercise program is recommended. Exercises will help strengthen the muscles that support the back, and increase flexibility and range of motion.A physical therapist can help you in developing an exercise plan that is suitable for you and your condition.
- Nonprescription medicines can be used to reduce pain. They include medications like aspirin Tylenol, which are meant for general pain relief. Anti-inflammatory drugs are used to reduce swelling. These include such nonprescription medications as ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil). Stronger prescription-based medication is available, both as pain relievers and anti-inflammatories.
Someone in your family is suffering from back pain, check out my other post Gift ideas for someone with back pain.