Back pain or backache is something that most of us have felt at some point of time, and it varies from people to people depending on the lifestyle they lead, an accident they might have suffered, or chronic diseases such as arthritis, spinal stenosis, etc, they might be suffering from. Whatever be the cause, back pain could lead to disability and inability to work and can interfere with the quality of life of a person.
The majority of back pain is nonspecific with no identifiable causes. There are four kinds of backache, neck pain (cervical), middle back pain (thoracic), lower back pain (lumbar) or coccydynia (tailbone or sacral pain). From the four, the lumbar area is the most common area affected.
KINDS AND CAUSES:
A person can suffer from acute, sub-acute, or chronic back pain, with the first two being found in most cases. In the case of acute, the pain does not last more than six weeks and is often caused by a fall or heavy lifting. Where chronic back pain is concerned, the pain can last more than three months and is less common than acute pain, and it is often caused by an initial injury, such as a back sprain or pulled muscle.
Conditions commonly linked to back pain include muscle or ligament strain brought about by repeated heavy lifting or a sudden awkward movement that can cause painful muscle spasms. Bulging or ruptured disks, which can lead to the soft material inside them pressing on a nerve, though at times it does not lead to back pain. Osteoarthritis can affect the lower back, and in some cases, arthritis in the spine can lead to a narrowing of the space around the spinal cord, a condition called spinal stenosis.
Another cause is skeletal irregularity, a condition in which your spine curves to the side (scoliosis) and can lead to back pain, but generally not until middle age. Lastly osteoporosis where the spine's vertebrae can develop compression fractures if the bones become porous and brittle.
Signs and symptoms of back pain can include muscle ache, shooting or stabbing pain, pain that radiates down your leg, pain that worsens with bending, lifting, standing or walking, and pain that improves with reclining.
WHEN TO SEE A DOCTOR:
Most back pain gradually improves with home treatment and self-care, usually within a few weeks but if it does not improve one should see a doctor. In rare cases, back pain can signal a serious medical problem, and one should seek immediate care if the pain causes new bowel or bladder problems or is accompanied by fever.
A person needs to contact the doctor if the pain is severe and does not improve with rest, spreads down one or both legs, especially if the pain extends below the knee, causes weakness, numbness or tingling in one or both legs, or is accompanied by unexplained weight loss.
Back pain could be avoided or its recurrence prevented by improving physical condition and learning and practicing proper body mechanics. Regular exercise, building muscle strength and flexibility, maintaining a healthy weight, proper posture while standing or sitting, and avoiding heavy lifting can help prevent back pain.