You may have suffered back pain at one time or currently experiencing some sort of pain, either at your lower back or middle back. Back pain is pretty rampant these days and many a time, they develop without a specific cause.
In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), most adults (a whopping 80%) experience low back pain at a time in their life. It’s so prevalent that it’s regarded as a leading cause of disability in the workplace, and one major reason why people skip work.
Back pain isn’t gender-specific, so both males and females are prone to this discomfort. The intensity of discomfort brought about by back pain can be mild but persistent or can be serious and leave the sufferer incapacitated. The silver lining, however, is that you’d rarely require surgery to treat most episodes of back pain. There are several measures available to relieve you of that back pain. If you are unlucky not to be able to prevent it, you can always try out some home treatment to heal your back in a matter of weeks.
Let’s take a look at symptoms of back pain you may experience.
Symptoms of Back Pain
There are several signs and symptoms of back pain you should be aware of. Some of them include:
- Aching muscle
- Stabbing or shooting pain
- Pain that increases as you bend, walk, stand or lift items
- Pain that streams down the leg
- Pain that eases with a recliner
Why does my back suddenly hurt me?
A sudden injury on ligaments and muscles supporting your back is most likely the cause of your acute back pain. You may feel the pain when ligaments and muscles strain or tear, or when there’s a muscle spasm.
Can exercises help relieve my back pain?
Sure thing! You can fight back pain by exercising. If you would like to give exercising a trial, some of the best options are lower tummy strengthening, leg stretch, bridge, deep abdominal strengthening, bird dog, and spine stretch.
Is back pain a sign of cancer?
Although there’s a possibility of back pain being linked to certain types of cancers like ovarian, spinal, and colorectal cancer, it’s not always the case. In fact, it’s seldom the case; lower back pain is just one of the most common disturbances. A cancer sufferer will have several other symptoms asides inconveniences of having back pain.
Do I need to see a doctor regarding back pain?
It totally depends on the severity of the back pain. For most back pain sufferers, the disturbance doesn’t last more than a few weeks and is sorted out with a little self-care and home treatment. However, in rare cases, that back pain may be telling you there’s a serious underlying medical issue to be checked out. You should reach out to your doctor ASAP.
So when should you see your doctor over a back pain?
A few situations when you need to see your doctor regarding your back pain include:
- If you’re having bladder and bowel problems alongside your back pain
- Feeling feverish when your back hurts
- A back pain caused by a blow to your back, a fall, or some other injury.
- You’re experiencing unexplained weight loss
- You’re feeling weak, and tingling or numbness in either or both of your legs
- The pain spreads to either or both of your legs – especially if it goes below your knee.
You can also visit a doctor if this is the first time you’re experiencing back pain after you clock 50 years of age. A visit to the doctor is also recommended if you have a history of osteoporosis, cancer, excessive alcohol or drug use, or steroid use.
Let’s take a minute to look at the causes of back pain in detail.
What causes back pain?
First, you should know that there are two types of back pain. The acute (shorter duration), and the chronic (longer duration) back pain.
Acute back pain is those that develop suddenly and stays for about six weeks are usually the result of factors like heavy lifting or falls. Chronic back pain, on the other hand, is less common. They also stay for a longer time (usually more than three months).
So, what causes back pain?
Many a time, back pain can just occur without any identifying cause which can be viewed via imaging study or running a test. But, majorly, several conditions are associated with causing back pain. These include:
Bulging or Ruptured Disks: One of the major conditions linked with back pain is a ruptured disk. There are disks present between those bones in your spine, acting as cushions. The problem is, the soft material enclosed in the disk is prone to rupture or bulge, pressing on a nerve in your spine. One thing to note is that not all bulging or ruptured disk will lead to back pain. But if you do have an X-ray scan for whatever reason, the doctor will likely discover disk disease.
Ligament or Muscle Strain: Muscle strain happens unexpectedly. Making an unexpected awkward movement or lifting heavy items repeatedly is enough to cause strain those spinal ligaments and back muscles. To make matters worse, constant strain coupled with the poor physical condition will result in painful muscle spasms.
Osteoporosis: Brittle and porous bones can result in your spine’s vertebrae having compression fractures.
Skeletal Irregularities: If you get to middle age, you can suffer from scoliosis, a condition that makes the spine curve to the side. It’s also a leading cause of back pain.
Arthritis: The lower back region can be hit with osteoarthritis. Certain times, arthritis in the spine may result in having spaces around the spinal cord narrowed. This condition is called spinal stenosis and can be a cause of back pain.
Let’s talk a little about risk factors. Since back pain isn’t limited to a specific audience and can affect teens and even children. There are certain factors that can increase your likelihood of experiencing back pain. Some of them are:
Lack of exercise: Exercising your body has several health benefits and even your back can thank you for it. If you don’t exercise, those unused muscles around your abdomen and back can weaken and result in back pain.
Age: Age isn’t just a number. Older folks are more prone to back pain. From age 30 or 40 you may begin to feel it more.
Diseases: Certain types of diseases like cancer and arthritis can enable back pain
Lifting improperly: If you make use of your back instead of using your legs, you may experience back pain.
Excess Weight: You’ll be stressing your back if you add excess body weight.
Smoking: You may not know it, but smoking does reduce the flow of blood to the lower spine. This can cause a lack of nutrients in the disks located at the back. It’s also common knowledge that smoking slows the healing process.
Psychological Conditions: Certain psychological conditions like anxiety and depression trigger the possibility of back pain, so people suffering from such are more prone to suffering back pain.
Now that we’ve covered the major causes of back pain, let’s take a look at preventing the same.
Preventing Back Pain
Improving your physical condition as well as having good mechanics may help you avoid or prevent back pain. Here are a few things to help you have a strong and healthy back.
- Quit Smoking: The benefits of quitting smoking are immense. Be sure to reach out to your doctor about how you can quit the habit.
- Exercise: Taking part in aerobic activities that are low-impact, you know, those that won’t really strain your back can help you avoid back pain. They can do this by strengthening your back and improving your endurance while at it, making you notice an improvement in the functioning of your muscles. Some good examples are swimming and walking. You can also talk to your doc about activities which are good for you.
- A Healthy Weight is Important: If you’re overweight you’ll notice strains on your back muscles causing back pain. One way to combat this is by losing some weight.
- Try to build your muscle flexibility and strength: Get into such exercises especially back muscle and abdominal exercise where your core is the primary focus. These types of exercises will help improve your core muscles, enabling them to assist your back by working as a natural corset for it. You’ll notice that you’ll become more flexible especially at the upper legs and hips region while aligning those pelvic bones and improving the feeling in your back. Again, be sure to reach out to your doctor for guidance on the best exercises for you.
There are certain movements that will strain and twist your back which you must avoid. To be safe and ensure proper use of your body, make sure you:
Sit Smart: All you need to do is select a seat that will support your lower back. There are reclining chairs designed to help reduce back pain. Those with a swivel base, armrest, and of course lower back support are a priority. You can try to maintain your back’s curve by putting either a rolled-up towel or a pillow at the portion between your back and the chair. Be sure to keep both your hips and knees level and don’t forget to regularly change positions (every half-hour is best).
Stand Smart: Slouching is bad for your back. Always try to keep your pelvic position neutral. Don’t stand for long durations, but if you must, reduce the load on your lower back by placing a foot on a footstool. Also, always alternate feet.