The human back is composed of a complex structure of muscles, ligaments, tendons, disks, and bones, which work together to support the body and enable us to move around. Problems with any of these components can lead to back pain. In some cases of back pain, its cause remains unclear. Damage can result from strain, medical conditions, and poor posture, among others.
Unfortunately, back pain is one of the most common reasons people go to the doctor or miss work, and it is a leading cause of disability worldwide. Some signs and symptoms of back pains includes: Pain that radiates down your leg, muscle ache, pain that worsens with bending, lifting, standing or walking, shooting or stabbing pain, pain that improves with reclining, and pains when your laying down. Back pain that comes on suddenly and lasts no more than six weeks (acute) can be caused by a fall or heavy lifting. Back pain that lasts more than three months (chronic) is less common than acute pain.
Back pain commonly stems from strain, tension, or injury. Most causes of back pain are:
-Strained muscles or ligaments
-Injuries, fractures, or falls
-A muscle spasm
Activities that can lead to strains or spasms include:
-Sitting in an unstable position
-Abrupt and awkward movements
-Awkward body twist
Other issues can also cause back problems which can be structural:
Arthritis: Osteoarthritis can cause problems with the joints in the hips, lower back, and other places. In some cases, the space around the spinal cord narrows. This is known as spinal stenosis.
Sciatica: A sharp and shooting pain travels through the buttock and down the back of the leg, caused by a bulging or herniated disk pressing on a nerve.
Ruptured disks: Each vertebra in the spine is cushioned by disks. If the disk ruptures there will be more pressure on a nerve, resulting in back pain.
Kidney problems: Kidney stones or kidney infection can cause back pain.
Abnormal curvature of the spine: If the spine curves in an unusual way, back pain can result. An example is scoliosis, in which the spine curves to the side.
Bulging disks: In much the same way as ruptured disks, a bulging disk can result in more pressure on a nerve.
Osteoporosis: Bones, including the vertebrae of the spine, become brittle and porous, making compression fractures more likely.
Infection of the spine: A fever and a tender, warm area on the back could be due to an infection of the spine.
Cancer of the spine: A tumor on the spine may press against a nerve, resulting in back pain.
Cauda equina syndrome: The cauda equine is a bundle of spinal nerve roots that arise from the lower end of the spinal cord. Symptoms include a dull pain in the lower back and upper buttocks, as well as numbness in the buttocks, genitalia, and thighs. There are sometimes bowel and bladder function disturbances.
Shingles: An infection that can affect the nerves may lead to back pain. This depends on which nerves are affected.
Other infections: Pelvic inflammatory disease, bladder, or kidney infections may also lead to back pain.
Sleep disorders: Individuals with sleep disorders are more likely to experience back pain, compared with others.
Some back issues can cause pain in other parts of the body, depending on the nerves affected, but if you continue to feel pains such as inflammation or swelling on the back, persistent back pain, where lying down or resting does not help, pain that reaches below the knees, a recent injury, blow or trauma to the back, that does not improve with rest.
Physical therapy: Applying heat, ice, ultrasound, and electrical stimulation — as well as some muscle-release techniques to the back muscles and soft tissues — may help alleviate pain.
Traction: Pulleys and weights are used to stretch the back. This may result in a herniated disk moving back into position. It can also relieve pain, but only while traction is applied.
Botox: Botox, according to some early studies, are thought to reduce pain by paralyzing sprained muscles in spasm. These injections are effective for about 3 to 4 months.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT can help manage chronic back pain by encouraging new ways of thinking. It may include relaxation techniques and ways of maintaining a positive attitude. Studies have found that patients with CBT tend to become more active and do exercise, resulting in a lower risk of back pain recurrence.
Cortisone injections: If other options are not effective, these may be injected into the epidural space, around the spinal cord. Cortisone is an anti-inflammatory drug. It helps reduce inflammation around the nerve roots. Injections may also be used to numb areas thought to be causing the pain.
Yoga: involves specific poses, movements, and breathing exercises. Some may help strengthen the back muscles and improve posture. Care must be taken that exercises do not make back pain worse.
Acupuncture: originates from China. It consists of inserting fine needles and specific points in the body. Acupuncture can help the body release its natural painkillers — endorphins — as well as stimulating nerve and muscle tissue.
Exercise: Regular low-impact aerobic activities — those that don’t strain or jolt your back — can increase strength and endurance in your back and allow your muscles to function better. Walking and swimming are good choices. Talk with your doctor about which activities you might try.