It's not uncommon for us to experience back pain every now and then. Back pain is a common complaint. It is also a common cause of absences from work or from school and a cause of frequent doctor visits. Although it is painful and may also be uncomfortable, it is usually not serious.
Facts About Back Pain
Back pain can occur at any age, yet it is more common among people aged 35 years old to 55 years old. Back pain can stem from illnesses affecting our bones, joints, ligaments and muscles. These illnesses may include those affecting the spine, the vertebral discs, the spinal cord and nerves, the internal organs in the pelvis, the abdomen, and the structures in the lumbar area. It can also be due to diseases of the aorta, chest, and trunk.
There are people who are more predisposed to back pain than most people. These people have risk factors for back pain which includes stress, pregnancy, a sedentary lifestyle, older age, anxiety, depression, female gender, obesity or overweight, smoking, strenuous physical exercise, and strenuous physical work.
Back pain may have a variety of other symptoms aside from ache or pain in the lumbar area. Other symptoms that may warrant a visit to the doctor include weight loss, fever, inflammation of the back, leg pain, knee pain, back trauma, urinary incontinence, difficulty in urination, fecal incontinence, numbness in the anus and pelvis, and numbness in the buttocks and in the genitals. Back pain should be consulted with a physician if the patients are less than 20 and more than 55 years of age, if they have been taking steroids for a few months, if they are drug abusers, if they have cancers, and if they have low immune systems.
Causes of back pain include muscle strain, ligament strain, heavy weight, muscle spasm, sudden abrupt movement, ruptured disks, bulging disks, sciatica, arthritis, abnormal curvature of the spine, and osteoporosis. Other causes include cauda equina syndrome, infections of the spine, cancer of the spine, sleep disorders, shingles, bad mattress and infections such as pelvic inflammatory disease (females) and bladder or kidney infections. Poor posture can also contribute to back pain.
If the doctor suspects something, he can order some tests for the evaluation of back pain such as x-rays, computerized tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, bone scans, electromyography or EMG and blood tests. There are several treatment options for back pain, though it may often resolve by itself with just home treatment and careful attention. The pain can usually go away with over-the-counter medicines and adequate rest for a few days. If the back pain won't go away with these simple remedies, the doctor may prescribe an NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug), tricyclic antidepressants and physical therapy. Heat, ice, ultrasound and electrical stimulation may also be given. The physical therapist can then do some strength and flexibility exercises that can provide benefit to the muscles and bones of the back. Cortisone injections may also help.
So how do we prevent back pain from taking charge in our lives? This is through addressing risk factors. Regular exercise can help build up strength and flexibility and can make one lose excess weight which may be the cause of back pain. Core strengthening exercises can strengthen the abdomen and back muscles while flexibility exercises improve flexibility in the hips and upper legs. Good posture should also be maintained.
Surgery and Low Back Pain
A recent study published in the February online issue of Spine shows that patients who have a low back surgery called minimally invasive transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion have good results as compared to those who had more invasive surgery for back pain. This Beaumont study gathered data from 304 patients who received the minimally invasive procedure. Majority of these patients experienced back pain relief and were able to return to their usual daily activities with improved quality of life.
To know more about back pain, feel free to browse our other articles on this site.