Most everyone experiences back pain at some point in their lives. So, it’s safe to say, you can probably relate to the feeling and that you know how irritating it can be to feel pain in your back.
It’s one of the most common reasons why people make a visit to their doctor and miss work each year. It’s also a leading cause of disability throughout the world.
There are so many reasons why you may be suffering from back pain, and there are varying degrees of pain and debilitation as well. Luckily, there are measures you can take to prevent and relieve many episodes of back pain right from the comfort of your own home.
If prevention measures fail to keep the pain at bay and you find yourself in a painful situation, there so are many at-home treatments and proper body mechanic techniques that you can turn to to help heal your back and keep it functioning optimally. Back surgery is usually a last resort option.
What Are The Symptoms of Back Pain?
The signs and symptoms associated with back pain include the following:
- Aching muscles
- Shooting or stabbing pains
- Pain that radiates from your back down your leg
- Pain that gets worse when you bend, lift, stand, or walk
- Pain that improves when you recline
When Should I Be Worried About Lower Back Pain?
When you’re experiencing back pain, you may be wondering when it’s time to go see a doctor. Most pain will gradually improve with time and with some home, self-care treatments, which can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to improve your condition. If after a few weeks you’re not feeling relief from your pain, it’s time to go see your doctor.
While rare, there are some cases in which back pain can indicate a serious medical problem. The following situations are urgent and require immediate medical attention:
- You experience new bowel or bladder problems
- Your pain is accompanied by fever
- Your pain is the result of a fall, blow to your back or another injury
Contact your doctor right away if your pain:
- Is several and is not responding or improving with rest
- Spreads down your legs, particularly if it goes past your knee
- Causes weakness, numbness, or tingling in your legs
- Experienced unexplained weight loss along with your pain
It’s also important to call your doctor if you are over the age of 50 and experiencing back pain for the first time or if you have a history of cancer, osteoporosis, steroid usage, or excess drug and alcohol use.
What Is The Most Common Cause of Back Pain?
Pain in your back can be caused by a number of things and it usually comes on all of a sudden and lasts for no more than six weeks. This is referred to as acute back pain. For pain that lasts more than three months, it’s considered chronic. Chronic pain is less common than acute back pain.
Unfortunately, it’s often difficult to diagnose the root cause of your back pain, even with testing, your doctor may have trouble identifying the caus.. The common conditions that are associated with back pain include the following:
- Strain in your muscle or ligament: A sudden awkward movement or repeated heavy lifting can strain the muscles in your back and spine. If you’re not in good physical condition, constant strain on your back can result in painful muscle spasms.
- Bulging or ruptured discs: We all have discs in our spine what act as cushions between the bones in your spine. Inside the disk, there’s a soft, jelly-like material that can bulge or rupture and press on a nerve. If you’ve ever experienced pressure on a nerve anywhere in your body, it was probably painful, right? The same goes for the nerves in your back.
- Arthritis: The most common type of arthritis you can experience in your back is osteoarthritis and it frequently affects the lower back in particular, causing the bones to become brittle. In some cases, arthritis in the spine can lead to narrowing of the space around your spinal cord, causing a condition called spinal stenosis.
- Scoliosis or other skeletal irregularities: Scoliosis is a condition where your spine curves to one side and it can be a leading cause of back pain. If you have an irregularity in your bones, it makes sense that pain would ensue, right? Our bones were designed to be a certain way, so when things are out of whack, it’s uncomfortable.
Are There Any Risk Factors?
No one is exempt from back pain, even children and teens. However, these factors may put you at greater risk for developing pain in your back:
- Age: The older our bones get, the more common back pain is. Although unfair, it makes sense, doesn’t it? Beginning around age 30 or 40, we may notice pain in our backs that wasn’t there before.
- Exercise: When our muscles are weak and unused, the muscles in your back and core aren’t able to support you as they should which can lead to pain in your back.
- Weight: When you have excess body weight, it puts additional strain on your back and can cause pain.
- Disease: Some types of arthritis or cancer have been linked to this type of pain.
- Poor Lifting Form: When you lift an item improperly, using your back instead of your legs, it can lead to back pain.
- Psychological Conditions: Those who are prone to anxiety disorders and depression appear to be at greater risk of back pain.
- Smoking: Smoking reduces blood flow to your lower spine which can prevent your body from delivering enough nutrients to the discs in your back. Smoking can also slow your body’s natural healing process.
You might avoid back pain or prevent its recurrence by improving your physical condition and learning and practicing proper body mechanics.
How to Prevent Back Pain
Although back pain is extremely common, in many cases, it can be prevented. Here are some tips for keeping your back strong, healthy, and pain-free:
- Stay Active: With regular, low-impact activities like walking and swimming, you can increase your strength and endurance without putting any extra strain on your back. This allows your muscles to support you better and increases their functionality.
- Increase Muscle Strength and Flexibility: Along the same lines as our last tip, your abdominal and back muscles make up what we consider your “core,” a natural corset for your back. When you have flexibility in your hips and upper legs, your pelvic bones align, improving how your back feels. There are particular exercises you can perform to build both your core strength and flexibility, and your doctor or physical therapist is the best resource for that information.
- Maintain a Healthy Body Weight: If you’re carrying around excess weight in the form of fat, guess whose job it is to bear that burden? You guessed it, your back. By getting healthy and dropping some of that weight, you can reduce your chances of back pain.
- Stop smoking: There are so many benefits to quitting smoking, including reduced back pain.
In addition to the above mentioned, there are certain movements that should be avoided to protect your back from straining or twisting. It’s important that you use your body correctly by doing the following:
- Stand With Proper Posture: We all know we shouldn’t slouch, but it’s really important for your back that you maintain a neutral pelvic position. If you’re required to stand for long periods of time, try placing one foot on a low footstool or another elevated surface to take some of the load off of your back. Then alternate your feet.
- Sit In A Comfortable, Ergonomic Chair: For many of us, we’re stuck behind a computer screen all day and it can wreak havoc on our backs. By choosing a seat that has good lower back support, armrest, and a swivel base, you’re setting yourself up for proper form and less back pain.
- Lift Properly: If possible, avoid any unnecessary heavy lifting. If you do need to lift things, be sure to lift from your legs, not from your back so you can protect it.