Back Pain: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment
Back Pain is a very common problem among adults aged 35 and 55 years old. It can either be intermittent and constant mild, moderate, severe or dull. It is the most common reason for work-related absences and frequent visits to the doctor in the United States.
It comes in many forms- upper back pain, middle back pain, lower back pain and lower back pain with sciatica. Acute back pain can be a result of any back trauma such as strains or fractures. It can be triggered by poor posture while sitting or standing, improper bending, or incorrect lifting. Other risk factors include obesity, poor physical condition, smoking, stress, poor sleeping position or other skeletal irregularities.
Generally, back pain is not a serious condition and usually disappears on its own. In most cases, it is also successfully treated by pain medications and mobility. Back pain can be chronic if it lasts longer than three months.
- Shooting or stabbing pain
- Swelling or any burning sensation on the back
- Limited flexibility or range of motion
- Tingling, weakness and numbness
Test and Diagnosis
There is no specific diagnostic test that can confirm the cause of back pain. If you see a doctor, he or she will examine your back and assess your ability to sit, stand, walk and lift your legs. If the doctor suspects any underlying cause, certain diagnostic tests are recommended such as X-ray, CT scan or Bone Scan.
Treatment and Drugs
Most back pains are usually managed with over-the-counter painkillers and continued mobility. Bed rest can be of help but continued light activities are more recommended if tolerated. However, if any activity increases the pain, bed rest is necessary.
Pain relievers are usually the first-line treatment for back pain. Pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen (Advil) are both effective in relieving back pain. These medications should be taken as prescribed because overdose can cause serious side effects. If mild to moderate back pain doesn’t get better with over-the-counter pain relievers, muscle relaxants are usually prescribed. Driving activities are discouraged while taking these medications because it can cause dizziness.
Stretching is also recommended to treat back pain.
Proper body mechanics is the hallmark of back pain prevention. This includes:
- Standing properly. Good posture can reduce the amount of stress placed on back muscles.If you must stand for long periods of time, place your feet alternately on a low footstool to take some of the load off your lower back.
- Sitting properly. Choose a seat with good lower back support, arm rests and a swivel base. Placing a pillow or rolled towel in the hollow of your back can help maintain its normal curvature. Change your position frequently, ideally at least once every half hour.
- Lifting properly. Keep your back straight and bend only at the knees. Hold the load close to your body. Avoid simultaneous lifting and twisting. Ask for assistance if the object is heavy.
Regular low-impact aerobic exercises can also increase the strength and endurance of your back to allow muscles to function better. Moreover, maintaining a healthy weight can also help prevent unnecessary strain on back muscles that can be brought by obesity.