Back Pain

Back Pain

Back Pain

  • Persistent aching or stiffness anywhere along your spine, from the base of the neck to the tail bone
  • Sharp, localized pain in the neck, upper back, or lower back especially after lifting heavy objects or engaging in other strenuous activity
  • Chronic ache in the middle or lower back, especially after sitting or standing for extended periods
  • Back pain that radiates from the low back to the buttock, down the back of the thigh, and into the calf and toes
  • Inability to stand straight without having pain or muscle spasms in the lower back

Mechanical problems

A mechanical problem is due to the way your spine moves or the way you feel when you move your spine in certain ways. Perhaps the most common mechanical cause of back pain is a condition called intervertebral disc degeneration, which simply means that the discs located between the vertebrae of the spine are breaking down with age. As they deteriorate, they lose their cushioning ability. This problem can lead to pain if the back is stressed. Another cause of back pain is the wearing down of the facet joints, which are the large joints that connect each vertebra to another. Other mechanical causes of back pain include spasms, muscle tension, and ruptured discs, which are also called herniated discs.

Injuries

Spine injuries such as sprains and fractures can cause either short-lived or chronic back pain. Sprains are tears in the ligaments that support the spine, and they can occur from twisting or lifting improperly. Fractured vertebrae are often the result of osteoporosis, a condition that causes weak, porous bones. Less commonly, back pain may be caused by more severe injuries that result from accidents and falls.

Acquired conditions and diseases

Many medical problems can cause or contribute to back pain. They include scoliosis, which causes curvature of the spine and does not usually cause pain until mid-life; spondylolisthesis; various forms of arthritis, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis; and spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal column that puts pressure on the spinal cord and nerves. While osteoporosis itself is not painful, it can lead to painful fractures of the vertebrae. Other causes of back pain include pregnancy; kidney stones or infections; endometriosis, which is the buildup of uterine tissue in places outside the uterus; and fibromyalgia, which causes fatigue and widespread muscle pain.

Infections and tumors

Although they are not common causes of back pain, infections can cause pain when they involve the vertebrae, a condition called osteomyelitis, or when they involve the discs that cushion the vertebrae, which is called discitis. Tumors, too, are relatively rare causes of back pain. Occasionally, tumors begin in the back, but more often they appear in the back as a result of cancer that has spread from elsewhere in the body.
Although the causes of back pain are usually physical, it is important to know that emotional stress can play a role in how severe pain is and how long it lasts. Stress can affect the body in many ways, including causing back muscles to become tense and painful. Untreated depression and anxiety can make back pain feel much worse. Likewise, insomnia, or the lack of sleep, can also contribute to back pain.

What is sciatic pain or sciatica?

Sciatic pain or sciatica is the pain that occurs because a nerve coming from the spinal cord is pressed on (trapped) by a prolapsed disc, or is irritated by the inflammation caused by the prolapsed disc. Although the problem is in the back, you feel pain along the course of the nerve in addition to back pain. Therefore, you may feel pain down a leg to the calf or foot. Sciatic pain can range from mild to severe, but it is often worse than the back pain. With a prolapsed disc, the sciatic nerve is the most commonly affected nerve. The sciatic nerve is a large nerve that is made up from several smaller nerves that come out from the spinal cord in the lower back. It travels deep inside the buttock and down the back of the leg. There is a sciatic nerve for each leg.

Back Pain

Back pain is one of the most common reasons people visit the doctor. Most people will experience lower back pain at some point in their life. The reasons vary, from acute sprains from sports injuries to longer-term diseases caused by a variety of factors.

Here are eight tips to ease some pain and keep your back healthy:

Strengthen your core muscles

Your lower back is under the stress of supporting your entire upper body. Surrounding muscles in your back need to be toned to support your spine and reduce pressure on your lower back. Our core muscles are rarely used during everyday activities, so they need to be toned through specific, targeted exercises. Take a few minutes each day to do a couple of simple core exercises.

Stretch daily

Many back problems are caused by tight muscles. If your back muscles are tight, they put added stress on your entire spine, including your joints. Get into a habit of daily stretches to promote your spinal health.

Avoid sitting with poor posture

If your sitting posture is poor, the discs in your lower spine are loaded even more than when you’re standing. If you must sit for long periods of time, remember to get up and walk around every so often.

Take walks

Walking is a very safe and good exercise. Brisk walking at work or outside will help you to maintain a healthy weight and keep pressure off your back.

Lift correctly

When you lift something heavy, it's very easy to twist the wrong way. This can lead to muscle spasm and pain. Use proper body mechanics by engaging your leg muscles, not your back, when you pick up heavier items. Get help if the item is too much for you to lift alone.

Reduce pressure on your back when you sleep

Sleeping flat on your back puts pressure on your spine. Elevate your knees slightly by placing a pillow under them. If you’re a side sleeper, put a pillow between your knees to reduce pressure on your back.

Watch your weight

Extra weight puts a strain on your back. In order to deal with extra weight, your spine can become tilted and stressed unevenly. The back may lose its proper support and develop an unnatural curvature of the spine over time.

Quit smoking

Smoking restricts blood flow to the discs that cushion your vertebrae. This could lead to quicker disc degeneration. Smoking also reduces calcium absorption and new bone growth. This increases the risk of a fracture due to osteoporosis, a condition where bones become weak and brittle.


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