Three key causes of back pain

Most people suffer from back pain at some time in their lives. Considering the back is a complex system of nerves, muscles, ligaments, discs, bones and of course the spinal cord, it can be tricky to pinpoint the exact cause of pain.

There is no “one-size-fits-all” cure for back pain and definitely no miracle cure. However, with the right treatment you can reduce the severity and impact of back pain on your life.

1.    Back injury

Injury is a highly common reason for back pain. Either as a result of direct impact from a fall, back strain from heavy lifting, or due to repetitive activities such as sitting for hours typing at a computer with incorrect posture.

Back injury can also occur as a result of bulging, ruptured or herniated discs, and osteoporosis that can lead to compression fractures.

2.    Inflammation

Inflammatory pain is caused by spinal disc inflammation.  This can be related to back injury but is more commonly the result of a medical condition, such as ankylosing spondylitis, that causes the immune system to attack the spine. Other causes of inflammation include arthritis and wear and tear caused by age, infection such as a kidney infection or shingles, and cancer.

3.    Chronic pain

With chronic pain disorders, such as fibromyalgia, the nervous system registers pain but there are no obvious health risks associated with the pain. This can be quite complex for medical professionals to diagnose, and frustrating for patients who have to live with the pain.

Chronic pain can also be the result of genetic factors such as curvature of the spine, or a short leg.

Symptoms of back pain

The symptoms of back pain can vary such as:

·      a dull aching pain

·      sharp pain that can be made worse by movement such as sitting, standing, bending or lifting

·      tingling pain or numbness down the legs or arms

·      loss of range of motion

·      leg or arm weakness

·      stiffness

·      muscle and joint tenderness

·      shooting pain

How high is your risk of back pain?

The following factors are linked to a  higher risk of developing back pain:

  • pregnancy
  • a sedentary lifestyle
  • poor physical fitness
  • older age
  • obesity and excess weight
  • smoking and excessive alcohol consumption
  • strenuous physical exercise or work, especially if done incorrectly
  • long-term repetitive activity, such as computer-based work
  • genetic factors
  • medical conditions, such as arthritis and cancer

Lower back pain is generally more prevalent in women than in men, possibly due to hormonal factors. Stress, anxiety and mood disorders can exacerbate back pain.

When to seek medical help

Short-term back pain can often resolve itself without treatment. However, if any of the following occurs seek medical help:

  • persistent back, joint or limb pain
  • sudden, unexplained weight loss
  • fever
  • inflammation or swelling on the back
  • pain down the legs
  • pain that reaches below the knees
  • a recent injury, blow or trauma to the back
  • urinary incontinence
  • difficulty urinating
  • loss of control over bowel movements
  • numbness around the genitals or buttocks

How to prevent back pain

There are ten key ways to prevent back pain.

  1. Regular exercise helps build strength and control body weight. Low impact aerobics can reduce the risk of straining the back or joints.  Core strengthening exercises strengthen muscles that support the back, while flexibility training helps improve flexibility in the muscles. Consult your health care professional before starting a new exercise program.
  2. A healthy diet with plenty of fresh, organic vegetables and a reduced sugar and fat intake can support bone health and control body weight.
  3. Eliminate smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. A significantly higher number of smokers and heavy drinkers experience pain compared to non-smokers and non-drinkers.
  4. Control body weight. The more weight people carry, the more stress it puts on the skeletal system, which results in pain. People who carry weight in the abdominal area are at greater risk of back pain.
  5. Practice good posture when sitting or standing. Make sure to sit or stand upright, lock your core muscles and keep your head in a neutral position. Avoid slouching as this puts pressure on the spine. When seated, ensure you have good back support and keep your feet flat on the floor.
  6. Use your legs to lift objects rather than your back. When lifting, bend your knees and keep your back as straight as possible. As you lift, carefully straighten your legs and try to maintain a straight back position.  Ensure to keep the object you are lifting close to your body. Also ensure to lock your core stomach muscles during lifting. Never lift and twist at the same time. If an object is too heavy to lift on your own, seek some help or use machinery to lift the object for you.
  7. When moving objects across the floor, use your leg strength to push the object rather than pulling it toward you.
  8. Wear flat, supportive and comfortable shoes to reduce strain on the back.
  9. When driving make sure your side mirrors are positioned so that you don’t need to twist. Take plenty of breaks during a long journey where you stop, get out of the car to stretch and walk around.
  10. Sleep on your back or side on a supportive mattress. Never sleep in a position where you have to twist your neck, such as on your stomach.

Chiropractors can diagnose and treat back pain with gentle manipulation techniques that are designed to strengthen and support the spine and joints. For more information and a spinal assessment contact Lane Chiropractic Pottsville on 6676 2270.

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