Back pain: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Prevention
Do you often find yourself taking leave from work over your back pain? Well, it is one of the most common reasons people consult a doctor and miss work. Back pain can tamper with one’s daily routine and can be highly uncomfortable. Muscles, ligaments, tendons, and bones together constitute the human back, they work in tandem to support the body and help us move around. Problems with either of these can affect your back adversely.
According to WHO, approximately 80% of the population suffers from back pain at least once during their lifetime. Back pain is one of the common problems seen in people across all age groups.
Back pain in women
But unlike men, there are a lot of changes that happen in a woman with age right from hormonal changes to menstruation and pregnancy that take a toll on the back. Whether you’re a working woman or a housewife, it goes without saying that every woman has a massive workload and long working hours both at the office and home which affects her overall health. However, the back and the spinal cord which are the pillars of the body are the ones that are most affected.
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What are the possible causes of back pain ?
The most common cause of back pain is muscle strain and incorrect posture. Other causes include:
- Long working hours while sitting in chairs and lack of exercise
- Obesity ·
- Poor posture: Often we don’t realize, but while sitting or working on computer screens, we tend to adopt a hunched back position, this results in back as well as shoulder pain later on.
- Muscle spasm, fractures, damaged disks (cushions between our bones in the spine)
- Bulging or ruptured discs: Rupturing of a disc can cause extra pressure on a nerve, and press the nerve causing your back pain. Similarly, bulging discs can also put pressure on your nerves and lead to debilitating backaches.
- Osteoporosis: When your bones become brittle, your spine’s vertebrae can develop small painful fractures.
- Arthritis: Another major cause of back pain is spinal osteoarthritis, which is due to damage in the cartilage of joints in the lower back. Eventually, the space around the spinal cord starts to get narrower, leading to what is known as spinal stenosis.
This could be another type of arthritis too. Book a test here and know if it can be rheumatoid arthritis.
Watch out for these symptoms !
A shooting pain anywhere on the back or a burning or stabbing sensation that sometimes runs down till your leg or the foot. If it is due to muscle strain, or posture, that pain is usually short-lived, maybe a few days or weeks. But if you suffer from back pain for more than 3 months, you should consult a doctor. Mostly the pain goes away with minor treatment, exercise, or self-care, but if the back pain is accompanied by fever, numbness in the legs, constant weakness, weight loss, or difficulty while urinating, you should seek immediate medical assistance.
Diagnosis for back pain
You have acute pain if the pain lasts for a few weeks, but if the pain is persistent, and lasts for more than 3 months, it is a chronic or long-term pain that needs medical supervision. Your doctor will examine and assess your back and if they suspect something, they might order one of the following tests-
- X-ray: An X-ray is done to check the alignment of the bones, and help detect signs of broken bones or arthritis.
- MRI or CT scans: Since X-rays don’t show any damages to the soft tissues, it is important to have an MRI done, to detect problems with blood vessels, muscles, nerves, and ligaments.
- Blood tests: Though it is a rarity to order for blood tests, it can be helpful when you want to determine whether some infection is the cause of your back pain.
- Bone scans: These scans are done to check if there is a bone tumor or compression fractures due to osteoporosis, basically performed to detect any sort of abnormalities in your bone tissue.
- EMG (electromyography): It is a nerve study that measures the electrical impulses produced by nerves and how your muscles react to them.
Treatment of back pain
While for acute pain, pain relief medicines, and warm water heating can be sufficient, for chronic pain conditions, the doctor suggests medications like-
- Over-the-counter pain relievers
- Topical pain relievers such as creams, ointments, sprays, or patches.
- Muscle relaxants
Back pain can be a debilitating and life-changing condition. Hence, if you have a backache that is recurrent in nature or if your back pain fails to show any improvement even after taking sufficient rest, it is wise to consult a spine specialist.
Prevention is better than cure
Being a little careful and agile can go a long way in curtailing the risk of back pain. Here are a few tips you can follow, in order to ease that back pain.
Calcium and vitamin D for better muscle and bone health: Include calcium and vitamin D in your diet. Let your bones, muscles, and joints heal from severe back pain.
Check your calcium and vitamin D levels here.
Posture: Your posture while sitting as well as while standing can immensely impact your back. While sitting, always try to have your knees and hips leveled and keep your feet flat on the floor, if you use a keyboard, have your elbows at right angles and support your back, at the same time, when sitting for long hours. While standing, your back should always be straight, and you should balance your body weight evenly on both your feet.
Regular exercise: Flexibility training can help with back pain, a professional would be better able to guide you through exercises that will help build strength and keep your body weight in control as well.
Other precautions include wearing comfortable shoes, using a comfortable mattress, not smoking, and keeping your body weight in check.
With daily stretches, a proper diet, and maintaining correct postures, you can avoid and prevent back pain easily.
Your back endures a lot of wear & tear over the course of a lifetime- Take care of it!