Dealing With Back Pain

Dealing With Back Pain

By Razia Sanwari

Back pain is a common occurrence and you can often hear complaints of it at home, in the office and in social circles. Most of the times it is ignored if mild or treated with painkillers and home remedies which prove to be sufficient and the pain subsides. But sometimes it can really get out of hand in which case the patient has to rush to the doctor for diagnosis and subsequent treatment. It is believed that in their lifetime, around four out of five people will experience back pain. And a study says that every year there are 13 million plus Americans who visit the doctor to have their back pain checked out.

Usually, back pain is easily treatable and goes away with home remedies, good care and medication. But this is usually in case of strains, ligament pulls, muscle sprains and discomfort due to unhealthy lifestyles. No long-term medication or surgery is required in most of the cases. However, if the pain is severe and persists beyond four weeks, then a doctor’s visit becomes a must.

Back pain is not just pain in one portion of the back, but it can be divided anatomically as neck pain, middle back pain, lower back pain and tailbone/buttock pain. All these areas of ache and soreness are identified as back pain.

Reasons

The most common causes of back pain are bad postures, long hours of sitting, poor lifestyle, muscle or ligament strain due to lifting weights or sudden and awkward movement, bulging or ruptured disks, arthritis, skeletal abnormalities and osteoporosis.

Sitting for long hours is one primary reason for back pain, especially in the lower back area. Modern lifestyle requires long hours at the computer and this is not taken kindly to by the body. We have evolved to be more efficient if we are upright and moving about. Sitting position puts our thighs at 90 degrees to the torso. This causes the iliopsoas muscle, which is positioned in the thigh, to assume this position and tighten up. So when we stand up, this muscle, which is attached to the lumbar spine, is forced to stretch leading to lower back pain.

There are other, more serious reasons for back pain. One of them is pain due to the sciatic nerve which usually affects only one side of the lower body. Also, night time back pain could indicate a serious problem with the spine.

Cauda equine syndrome is a rare disorder in which the person experiences severe low back pain due to compression of the spinal nerve roots. This is considered a medical emergency and may require urgent surgical treatment.

Other serious reasons could be herniated disks, compression fractures, narrowing of the spinal canal, cancer or bone tumor.

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Symptoms

Other than stabbing pain in the back, some of the symptoms of back pain include muscle ache, pain shooting down your leg, limited movement of the back and inability to stand up straight.

Risk Factors

People with improper posture, excess weight and those who don’t exercise are some of them at a high risk of developing back pain. It appears that those who suffer from anxiety and depression are also likely to be affected by back pain.

Medical Advice

Usually, back pain will go away once you have identified the reasons for it. Suitable care and home remedies are likely to provide relief. However, if pain is accompanied with fever, redness, heat, swelling or changes in bodily functions, then you might need to see a doctor immediately. Attention is also required if there has been an accident or a fall, if the pain is getting worse and continuing for more than four weeks, if it gets worse or is severe at night, is accompanied by abdominal pain, there is numbness in the lower body or weakness and numbness or tingling in the legs or arms. If there is fever along with back pain then it could indicate an infection in the spine following a spine surgery or because of a weak immune system.

Treatment

Proper care like rest, massage, application of soothing ointments, exercise, weight loss, ice packs, pain relievers like ibuprofen or Tylenol, can manage milder back pain. If the pain persists and is severe and disabling, then a doctor visit becomes important because that could indicate a serious reason for the back pain. Depending on his diagnosis, a back pain may sometimes also require surgery.

Diagnosis

A visit to the doctor will involve a detailed check-up. The doctor will examine your back and make you walk around in order to detect any abnormalities in the movement so that he can identify the cause and he may also check your reflexes. If he suspects there could be a more serious problem, he may tell you to get an x-ray or MRI done and may even ask you to go for a bone scan. To rule out nerve compression, he may advise electromyography or EMG which is a technique to evaluate and record the electrical activity produced by skeletal muscles.

Prevention

There are simple precautions to be taken and easy routine to follow in order to avoid a backache. Regular exercise and keeping your weight under control is essential. Improve your posture, especially when you are sitting down at work. Make sure you use a chair with a straight back or low-back support. Put up your feet on a stool instead of letting it hang down to the floor. Even when sleeping, avoid lying down on the stomach which is bad for the back. Do not lift weights abruptly or with a jerk. Avoid high heels and tight clothes, especially jeans. And maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Pain Relievers

There are some devices in the market which have been designed to provide relief from back pain. These are economical and from reliable brands so there is no harm in trying them out. You can check out the relief system from Zewa. This has a belt which you wrap around your back and click on a massage program to send electrical impulses through electrodes to the areas causing you pain. It can be quite a stimulating and soothing experience.

There are also several types of back support cushions, massage chairs, back massagers and various other massage tools that are designed to provide relief from back pain.

 

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