The back is one of the most important structures of the body. It helps hold ourselves in an upright posture, and supports out head on our torso. The back, or more specifically the spine, is involved in constant movement. It helps us bend and stand up, lift things, hold heavy weights and aids in twisting our body sideways. Because the spine is always in motion in one way or the other, its wear and tear also occurs more so than the rest of the body. This is the reason why majority of the people complain of lower back pain; almost everyone has experienced it in their lifetime at least once.
Back pain can occur due to a lot of underlying reasons. But what does it mean when we say that the back pain is non-specific?
Non-Specific Lower back Pain
As defined and published by NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) in the Low Back Pain Guidelines: “Non-specific low back pain is tension, soreness and/or stiffness in the lower back region for which it is not possible to identify a specific cause of the pain. Several structures in the back, including the joints, discs and connective tissues, may contribute to symptoms”.
Non-specific back pain is something that cannot be traced back to its roots. Or we can say that it does not occur as a result of some specific, diagnosable disease. Back muscle strain due to an athletic injury can be one example of a non-specific pain.
This type of pain is usually considered mechanical, which occurs when the spine moves. It can also result due to wear and tear of the spine or muscle imbalance.
Types of non-specific back pain
Non-specific low back pain is usually categorized into acute, subacute and chronic (based in the duration of the pain). Acute pain means pain occurring for less than 6 weeks, subacute means pain occurring between 6 to 12 weeks, and chronic pain means back pain for more than 12 weeks.
Common causes of non-specific lower back pain
As it has been mentioned already, non-specific back pain occurs without any specific identifiable underlying disease. It can be caused by
- Traumatic injury
- Lumbar spinal strain or sprain
- Postural strain
Characteristics of the pain - How to identify it?
Some important features of non-specific lower back pain are as follows:
- The cause of the problem cannot be explained by a specific pathology.
- People from all ages can be affected.
- Management of this type of pain is limited and symptomatic.
- Frequent relapses occur.
- Most episodes of pain are self-limiting and are not related to a serious disease.
- Obesity and being over-weight is usually related to non-specific lower back pain.
What to do about it?
Treatment for this type of back pain is usually conservative. Surgery is rarely performed, as non-specific pain is rarely relate to a serious illness.
1. Home Remedies
Use heat/ cold therapy to relieve the back pain at home. Most experts suggest that using these alternatively can be most effective. Applying ice packs, or ice wrapped in a towel to the problem area and help reduce inflammation as well as relieve pain. Using heating pads, or taking a hot shower are also very helpful in relaxing the muscles.
Non-Invasive Spinal Decompression
3. Exercise and Physical Therapy
Experts recommend that people with back pain must stay active, which has to be done by exercising regularly. If you want an exercise program to be tailored according to your needs, consider physical therapy. Physical therapy includes aerobic activity, movement and muscle strengthening exercises, postural control as well as stretching.
4. Improving Posture
In most of the cases, poor posture results in a constant back ache. Maybe it’s that crooked chair in your workplace, or maybe it’s those uncomfortable car seats that are putting pressure on the spine. It could also be due to a poor mattress and a pillow that isn’t supporting your spine at night as it should. Consider all these reasons and observe if these are the main culprit of the back pain. Simple improvements in these areas can help alleviate the pain that might persist even with medications. If you cannot change the seats, consider getting back support for chairs and car seats.
Prolonged standing/sitting can also cause long term back ache. Consider taking short breaks in between, or perform stretches at work if you need to sit at the desk for long hours.
5. Spinal Manipulation
Spinal manipulation (movement at the limit of joint range), spinal mobilization (joint movement within the normal range of motion of the joint) and massage (manual manipulation of soft tissues) therapies are important and effective in managing back pain.
6. Reduce Weight
If you are obese, you need to lose weight. Excessive weight puts stress on the spine, and also alters the normal posture. This results in pain in the back. Reducing weight can help reduce the back pain, as well as improve health and fitness.
7. Healthy Lifestyle
Adopt a healthy lifestyle by quitting smoking, reducing the amount of alcohol consumption, and eating nutritious and a well-balanced diet. Have vitamins to fulfill any deficiencies, which might also be causing the pain in the back. Also drink lots of water.