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Back Pain

Definition of Back Pain

Back pain may occur in the upper, middle, or lower back; it is most often experienced in the lower back. It may originate from the bones and ligaments forming the spine, the muscles and tendons supporting the back, the nerves that exit the spinal column, or even the internal organs.

Alternative Names

Backache; Low back pain; Lumbar pain; Pain - back; Acute back pain; Back pain - new

Types of Back Pain

An immediate pain, which gradually decreases its intensity, is experienced as an acute pain; whereas chronic pain is a complex one where patients experience back pain due to an injury which is normal, but experiences pain again after sometime though injury has been healed. Neuropathic pain arises due to injury in the sensory nerves without any visible damage to the tissues; this pain travels from the spine down to the arms or legs.

Signs and Symptoms of Back Pain

Back Pain

You feel like numbness in the lower back part due to inappropriate supply of blood from the compressed nerves, the pain is confined towards the down side of your leg which becomes severe at night. Symptoms of back pain are same in patients of similar age group but depending on distinct factors. Prolong sittings in one position lays strain on skin and muscles accompanied by pain. Patient neither able to raise his/her toe in upward direction nor able to stand on his/her toe without support, increased pains while coughing or bending forward.

Causes, and risk factors of Back Pain

Although anyone can have back pain, a number of factors increase your risk. They include:

  • Aging - Over time, wear and tear on the spine that may result in conditions (e.g., disc degeneration, spinal stenosis) that produce neck and back pain. This means that people over age 30 or 40 are more at risk for back pain than younger individuals. People age 30 to 60 are more likely to have disc-related disorders, while people over age 60 are more likely to have pain related to osteoarthritis.
  • Fitness level - Back pain is more common among people who are not physically fit. Weak back and abdominal muscles may not properly support the spine. "Weekend warriors"--people who go out and exercise a lot after being inactive all week--are more likely to suffer painful back injuries than people who make moderate physical activity a daily habit. Studies show that low-impact aerobic exercise is good for the disks that cushion the vertebrae, the individual bones that make up the spine.
  • Genetics - There is some evidence that certain types of spinal disorders have a genetic component. For example, degenerative disc disease seems to have an inherited component.
  • Diet - A diet high in calories and fat, combined with an inactive lifestyle, can lead to obesity, which can put stress on the back.
  • Pregnancy - Pregnant women are more likely to develop back pain due carrying excess body weight in the front, and the loosening of ligaments in the pelvic area as the body prepares for delivery. Learn more about Back Pain in Pregnancy.
  • Cigarette smoking - Although smoking may not directly cause back pain, it increases your risk of developing low back pain and low back pain with sciatica. (Sciatica is back pain that radiates to the hip and/or leg due to pressure on a nerve.) For example, smoking may lead to pain by blocking your body's ability to deliver nutrients to the disks of the lower back. Or repeated coughing due to heavy smoking may cause back pain. It is also possible that smokers are just less physically fit or less healthy than nonsmokers, which increases the likelihood that they will develop back pain. Smoking also increases the risk of osteoporosis, a condition that causes weak, porous bones, which can lead to painful fractures of the vertebrae. Furthermore, smoking can slow healing, prolonging pain for people who have had back injuries, back surgery, or broken bones.

Treatment for Back Pain

If your back pain is non-specific, your GP will recommend you try self-help measures. Alternatively, he or she may prescribe medicines or refer you for physical therapy if your pain is severe or chronic. If, however, your GP suspects you have a specific underlying cause, he or she may refer you to a back clinic or a pain clinic to see if you are suitable to have spinal injections. These are used to find out the exact source of, and also to treat, your back pain but aren't suitable for everyone.

There are a number of things you can do to help relieve low back pain.

  • Stay active and continue your daily activities as normally as you can. Bed rest may actually make low back pain worse, so try to limit the time you spend resting to a minimum.
  • Apply hot or cold packs to the affected area. You can buy specially designed hot and cold packs from most pharmacies. If you prefer, you can apply a cold compress, such as ice or a bag of frozen peas, wrapped in a towel. Don't apply ice directly to your skin as it can damage your skin.

Complications of Back Pain

Back pain, particularly lower back pain, is most often caused by strained back muscles and ligaments as a result of improper lifting techniques, or as a result of lifting an overly heavy load, or a result of sudden or awkward movement.

This back pain may be persistent or intermittent, and it may be localized in one place or radiate out to other areas of the body. In addition, back pain may be a dull ache, or a sharp piercing or burning type of pain.

Back pain may spread to the neck and it might also radiate out into an arm and hand, or it may be felt in the upper back, or in lower back, from where it might radiate out into a leg and foot). Back pain can also cause weakness or numbness in arms or legs.

In most cases, main complications of back pain include nothing more than decreased flexibility and movement. However, in severe or chronic cases, back pain can be extremely debilitating, and may cause a range of lifestyle, sleep, work, social, and other issues.

Please Note: If pain could be a result of any of the rarer or more exotic causes of back pain, such as Arthritis, Cauda Equina Syndrome, or cancer or infection of the spine or spinal cord, and you actually have developed any of these conditions, then a range of serious health and other complications may be caused by these conditions.

Prevention of Back Pain

Back pain is one of the most familiar ailments today. You must not evade consulting a doctor for acute or persistent pain, or in case of injuries and accidents. However, in certain situations, prevention is certainly better than cure. Here are a few tips for back pain prevention:

  • Avoid lifting objects that are too heavy. While bending down to lift anything, make sure to bend your knees and not your waist.
  • Take care of your posture every time of the day, especially while sitting, standing, and sleeping.
  • While sitting, keep your back straight. Use some kind of comfortable support for your back, especially its lower region when in a sitting position. This should be taken care of while driving as well.
  • Don't sit in the same pose for a long period of time. Specifically while working on the computer, change your position at regular intervals.
  • Don't be lazy. Exercise daily and walk around on a regular basis.
  • However, do not work out too much. Take specific caution with exercises that your body is not used to.
  • Keep away from smoking as much as possible.
  • Wear footwear that is comfortable. Ladies, please avoid wearing heels that are way too high as they have an undesirable effect on your feet and back.
  • Drink plenty of water every day as it cleans the muscles of your body.

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