Pain is an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage. It is a distressing feeling often caused by intense or damaging stimuli, and in medical diagnosis, pain is a symptom. It is a major symptom in many medical conditions, and can interfere with a person’s quality of life and general functioning.
Back pain can range from a dull, constant ache to a sudden, sharp pain that makes it hard to move. It can start quickly if you fall or lift something too heavy, or it can get worse slowly. This lower back pain, could be acute or chronic. Acute pain starts quickly and lasts less than 6 weeks. It is the most common type of back pain. Acute pain may be caused by things like falling, being tackled in football, or lifting something heavy. Chronic pain lasts for more than 3 months and is much less common than acute pain.
Most low back pain is the result of an injury, such as muscle sprains or strains due to sudden movements or poor body mechanics while lifting heavy objects. Low back pain can also be the result of certain diseases, such as cancer of the spinal cord, a ruptured or herniated disc, sciatica, arthritis, kidney infections, or infections of the spine. Acute back pain can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, while chronic back pain is pain that lasts longer than three months.
Low back pain is more likely to occur in individuals between the ages of 30 and 50. This is partly due to the changes that occur in the body with aging. As you grow older, the fluid content between the vertebrae in the spine reduces. This means discs in the spine experience irritation more easily. You also lose some muscle tone, which makes the back more prone to injury. This is why strengthening your back muscles and using good body mechanics are helpful in preventing low back pain.
• Getting older. Back pain is more common the older you get. You may first have back pain when you are 30 to 40 years old.
• Poor physical fitness. Back pain is more common in people who are not fit.
• Being overweight. A diet high in calories and fat can make you gain weight. Too much weight can stress the back and cause pain.
• Heredity. Some causes of back pain, such as ankylosing spondylitis, a form of arthritis that affects the spine, can have a genetic component.
• Other diseases. Some types of arthritis and cancer can cause back pain.
• Your job. If you have to lift, push, or pull while twisting your spine, you may get back pain. If you work at a desk all day and do not sit up straight, you may also get back pain.
• Smoking. Your body may not be able to get enough nutrients to the disks in your back if you smoke. Smoker’s cough may also cause back pain. People who smoke are slow to heal, so back pain may last longer.
• Another factor is race. Black women are two to three times more likely than white women to have part of the lower spine slip out of place.
Typical causes of lower back pain
Lifting something in an improper manner is a common cause of back pain.
STRAIN – The muscles and ligaments in the back can stretch or tear due to excess activity. Symptoms include pain and stiffness in the lower back, as well as muscle spasms. Rest and physical therapy are remedies.
• Strained muscles.
• Strained ligaments.
• Lifting something improperly.
• Lifting something that is too heavy.
• The result of an abrupt and awkward movement.
• A muscle spasm.
Mechanical problems with the back itself can cause pain.
• Disk breakdown
• Tense muscles
• Ruptured disks
Injuries from sprains, fractures, accidents, and falls can result in back pain.
Back pain can also occur with some conditions and diseases, such as
• Spinal stenosis
• Kidney stones
Other possible causes of back pain are infections, tumors, or stress.
Prevention of Low Back Pain
There are many ways to prevent low back pain. Practicing prevention techniques may also help lessen the severity of your symptoms if you have a lower back injury. Prevention involves
• exercising the muscles in your abdomen and back,
• losing weight if you are overweight, and eat healthy. To have strong bones, you need to get enough calcium and vitamin D every day.
• lifting items properly (bending at the knees and lifting with the legs), and
• maintaining proper posture.
• Sleep on a firm surface and sit on supportive chairs that are at the correct height.
• Avoid high-heeled shoes.
• If you smoke, you should quit – nicotine causes degeneration of spinal discs and also reduces blood flow.
There are certain danger signs , when you must see a doctor , if you are having lower back pain . These include :
• Numbness or tingling
• Severe pain that does not improve with rest
• Pain after a fall or an injury
• Pain plus any of these problems:
• Trouble urinating
• Numbness in your legs
• Weight loss when not on a diet.
To diagnose back pain, your doctor will take your medical history and do a physical exam. Your doctor may order other tests, such as:
• X rays
• Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
• Computed tomography (CT) scan
• Blood tests.
Medical tests may not show the cause of your back pain. Many times, the cause of back pain is never known. Back pain can get better even if you do not know the cause.
Treatment for back pain depends on what kind of pain you have.
Acute back pain
Acute back pain usually gets better without any treatment, but you may want to take acetaminophen, aspirin, or ibuprofen to help ease the pain. Exercise and surgery are not usually used to treat acute back pain.
Chronic back pain
Hot /cold packs- Hot or cold packs can soothe sore, stiff backs. Heat reduces muscle spasms and pain. Cold helps reduce swelling and numbs deep pain. Using hot or cold packs may relieve pain, but this treatment does not fix the cause of chronic back pain.
Exercise- Proper exercise can help ease chronic pain but should not be used for acute back pain. Your doctor or physical therapist can tell you the best types of exercise to do.
Medications — The following are the main types of medications used for back pain:
• Topical analgesics are creams, ointments, and salves rubbed onto the skin over the site of pain.
• Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are drugs that reduce both pain and swelling. NSAIDs include over-the-counter drugs such as ibuprofen, ketoprofen, and naproxen sodium. Your doctor may prescribe stronger NSAIDs.
• Muscle relaxants and some antidepressants may be prescribed for some types of chronic back pain, but these do not work for every type of back pain.
Behaviourial cahnges — You can learn to lift, push, and pull with less stress on your back. Changing how you exercise, relax, and sleep can help lessen back pain. Eating a healthy diet and not smoking also help.
Injections – Your doctor may suggest steroid or numbing shots to lessen your pain.
Alternative and complimentary treatments, surgeries.