Almost every other person you know these days is complaining of some kind of back pain. There is no doubt about it, it is one of the most common complaints of discomfort and unease. In the United States alone, almost 80 percent of the people suffer from lower back pain at least once at some point in their lives, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
Back pain is one of the most common reasons for missed work and in turn leads to an economic burden on the society. Pain in this part of the body occurs because the back is that one structure that supports our body weight and is easily susceptible to wear and tear, as well as injury, strains and sprains.
Stubborn or chronic back pain is the one which keeps on lingering and becomes long term. What causes it and what do you need to do about it?
Understanding The Causes Of Back Pain
There are many reasons why your back might hurt, but in order to make it easy to understand, let’s discuss them briefly.
1. Non-specific back pain
The most common form that can cause back pain is the “non-specific back pain.” This is the most common type of back pain which can occur due to a number of reasons, and most of the people usually suffer from this type.
This can result due to twisting or lifting heavy objects improperly, prolonged sitting or not exercising enough, poor posture, or even a bad mattress. It can also occur due to age as more wear and tear of the spine occurs, and can lead to other reasons mentioned ahead.
2. Pinched Nerve
One form of back pain occurs due to a pinched nerve, commonly called sciatica. This occurs when the nerve, along some point in its pathway, is pinched or compressed, resulting in severe burning pain along the route of that nerve. This type of pain usually occurs on one side, and travels from the lower back down one leg, till the feet.
3. Herniated Disc
A herniated disc can also lead to back pain, putting pressure on the surrounding nerves.
4. Spinal Stenosis
Another type of back pain occurs due to spinal stenosis. This means that the spinal canal (a hollow tube like structure present between the vertebrae which lodges the spinal cord) has narrowed. Spinal stenosis can also in turn pinch a nerve and cause pain.
Back pain can also be felt due to injuries, fractures, infections or a number of other serious diseases. These can include fibromyalgia, arthritis or even cancer.
Risk Factors to watch out for:
Chronic pain can also occur due to these factors. You’ll notice that some of them might not be directly related to the back, but they play an important role in aggravating the pain. Keeping a check on these will prevent back pain from occurring, and also improve your overall health.
- Being physically inactive
- Being over-weight or obese
- Prolonged sitting (e.g. at long working hours at a desk)
- Frequent lifting of heavy objects
- Psychological distress
Treatment options to go for:
Before starting any treatment, try to pinpoint why it is being triggered. Is your mattress too old and worn out? Or is the chair you sit on everyday uncomfortable? Is your lifestyle sedentary and you need to improve your fitness? Try figuring out where the problem is, so that you can plan to eliminate it along with taking measures to treat it.
1. Get up and Stay up
Even though when people have back pain (or any kind of pain for that matter), they tend to put up their feet and stay in bed all day. This is the worst possible thing you can do to relieve your back pain. The discs and cartilage in the back don’t have a very good blood supply, and rely on the compression and movement of our daily activities to get their supply of nutrients. This speeds up the healing process.
2. Exercises and Physical Therapy
Staying active and performing regular exercise can reduce back pain. People with chronic pain, however, may need a slightly more active treatment, like physical therapy. Back pain due to an unspecified cause has shown to be improved with properly tailored back exercises.
3. Improving Posture
If posture is your problem, try to avoid prolonged sitting. If your working hours are long and there is no choice, incorporate some simple stretches that you can perform at your desk (like side and back bends, and touching your toes), or use an alarm to remind you to get up for a short walk every half hour or so.
4. Talk Therapy
For some people, cognitive behavioural therapy has proved to improve their pain, especially if a talk therapy is paired with physical therapy. People who think negatively, are depressed or anxious heal slowly and take longer to recover.
5. Home Remedies
Chronic back pain can also be improved by alternating between ice packs and heating packs, massage, yoga and deep breathing. Some people also opt for an acupuncture. They don’t always work for everyone, but a lot of people find them helpful in relieving the pain as well as the stress.