Of all medical problems in the world, back pain has been common amongst the growing population as at least most of us are experiencing this in one way or another every day.
Back pain has no specific explanation but is mostly described as a constant dull ache to a sudden sharp pain that may radiate down the lower back or at the upper back of the human body. It is often felt or even gets worse when you are bending, twisting, lifting, walking, or even standing.
Sometimes back pain develops in a rapid slow manner when it is age-related due to degenerative changes to the spine but sometimes events such as accidents or lifting heaving things can hasten the condition.
Types of back pain
There are several types of back pains that will be discussed below.
a) Acute back pain
Acute pain is short-term pain that does not last for more than a month. It occurs due to conducting vigorous activities which you were not used to, lifting heavy objects, and bending the wrong way.
Acute back pain can go away on its own but sometimes it is advisable to see a doctor in case it lasts longer than expected.
b) Sub-acute back pain
This type of back pain needs immediate doctor’s attention as can last for more than 12 weeks.
Sub-acute back pain is comprised of;
- Flexion dominant back pain
- Extension dominant back pain
- Neurogenic claudication
- Inflammatory back pain
- Flexion dominant back pain
Spinal disc injury is the major cause of this type and has the following symptoms;
- It usually gets worse when sitting or bending.
- It is felt much worse when you stand quickly and walk for a short distance
- You may experience leg numbness
- You may be accompanied by leg weakness ( difficulty in straightening)
- There is a pain when coughing or sneezing but on the rare occasion
c) Extension dominant back pain
This type of back pain often occurs at the back of the spine, especially in relation to the joints.
Its symptoms are;
- Pain after standing for long hours
- Leg numbness occurs and is very severe in nature
- Pain in the lower back after engaging in vigorous activity
- There is the relief which is often temporary when you sit down
d) Neurogenic claudication
This is a type of back pain that is related to extension-dominant back pain but it tends to affect people of old age, especially in their late fifties. It usually limits the ability to walk long-distance as it is caused by a nerve getting compressed when someone is standing or working.
Its major symptom is numbness or leg weakness upon standing up and walking for a predictable amount of time.
e) Inflammatory back pain
This is a type of pain that is usually caused by inflammation of joints and occurs among patients who are aged under 35 years.
It is usually accompanied by symptoms such as;
- It can last for up to three months
- It gets worse when you are in an immobile state, especially during sleeping hours and wee hours of the morning
- When you do an exercise it disappears.
f) Chronic back pain
It last longer than three months. It is very severe in nature and stabbing. Chronic pain when left untreated can negatively affect the body’s psyche as its causes are very difficult to identify unless a fatal injury of known nature is involved.
g) Upper Back Pain
As the name suggests, this occurs on the upper part of the body or spine around the neck. They can be caused by;
- Muscle deconditioning & poor posture – People usually decondition their muscles over time by not using them in the correct manner. Such cases are like sitting at a desk with an incorrect posture for a very long period. This happens mostly in office work.
- Muscle overuse – Overusing back muscles causes a lot of pain to the patient e.g muscle strain, tightness, and irritation.
- Traumatic injuries – These are injuries that are associated with situations like car accidents, slipping and falling, lifting heavy objects incorrectly, or working out too hard.
h) Lower Back Pain
This is a very common type of back pain. This type of back pain is usually associated with injury to muscles on tendons and joints in the back. The pain is sometimes mild but can get severe depending on the injury or the condition that the patient is in.
Some risk factors for lower back pain are;
- Age– As people get older they experience lower back pain as the spine disc is worn out with age.
- Weight – Overweight people especially the ones usually referred to as obese are very prone to lower back pain due to extra weight.
- Disease – People with a history of diseases such as osteoarthritis can have a higher risk of lower back pain.
Identification of lower back pain is very easy as it appears gradually. Its pain is usually sharp or dull and achy. Popping sounds can be heard after or during an activity.
Back Pain In Females
Back pain varies among men, women, and children due to different reasons such as medical conditions, illness, or injuries. Women are known to experience or deal with chronic lower back pain more often than men.
Generally, there is a category that causes back pain in females;
- Back sprain
- Hormone fluctuation
- Medical condition
Girls when they reach puberty and start the menstrual cycle can also experience back pain due to these changes.
Some specific causes of back pain in women;
- Pregnancy – Hormones change due to pregnancy and the pressure that is placed on the lower back by a growing infant can cause a lot of lower back pain on frequent occasions till the day of baby delivery. There is some specific kind of exercises for a pregnant woman.
- Menstrual cycle – Fluctuating hormones can increase back pain sensitivity and it can affect the muscles’ movement. This effect causes a lot of back pain though it should not be an alert as this is a normal body functioning for ladies.
- Post menopause – Spinal disc degeneration accelerates due to declining levels of post-menopause.
Back Pain In Men
Men experience back pain differently from females due to the nature of work. Most men experience this due to their daily activities, which are often vigorous, excessive workout, medical conditions, etc.
- Excess workout – When you are not working out daily and you find yourself going the extra mile, it will result in muscle swollen which can cause back pain
- Medical condition – Medical conditions in men such as arthritis can cause problems such as pain in the lower back, joints, hips, and the space around the spinal cord.
- Smoking– Large populations of men do smoke. Smoking is known to cause body infection which can lead to back pain as well though on rare occasions.
Causes of Back Pain
Back pain can result due to different causes such as accidents, injuries, and even some medical conditions.
Back pain commonly happens when one gets involved in strenuous activities. These activities might cause;
- Muscle strain
- Muscle tension
- Muscle spasm
Such activities as lifting something which is very heavy in an incorrect way or making an abrupt uncertain body movement when lifting such heavy objects are the major causes of strain.
b) Structural problems
Structural problems that cause back pain are like rupture discs which give more pressure on the nerve resulting in back pain
When talking about posture, it simply either means standing posture or sitting posture. Sitting in an awkward position, especially when using a laptop in an office or at home can cause a lot of back pain.
These poor positions include:
- Muscle tension
- Sleeping on a mattress in poor condition
- Driving for long hours
- Standing for long
Other causes of back pain include;
- Sleep disorder
- Spine infection
- Spine cancer
- Old age
- Poor physical health
- Occupational activity.
Back Pain Treatment
Most back pain conditions can be treated by use of home remedies but it is very advisable to see a doctor especially when or after;
- Back pain is getting severe daily
- After a fall or injury
- Feeling continuous body weakness
- Uncertain weight loss
- Experiencing leg numbness
a) Home Treatment for Back-Pain
Apply an ice pack or a warm towel to the painful area and use over-the-counter medications such as Ibuprofen, which is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug.
You should rest from strenuous work or activity as these are among the major causes of muscle weakening.
b) Medical Treatment for Back-Pain
After experiencing these symptoms, you should visit the doctor to diagnose and establish if you truly have back pain problems. As a patient, you need to cooperate during this step as it sets the foundation for proper medication.
A CT Scan, MRI, and X-ray can be used to check the state of the body tissue in the back.
- X-ray shows aligning of bones and detects broken bones
- MRI reveals problems with body tissue, tendons, and nerve blood vessel.
- A bone scan can detect tumors or compression fractures.
Prevention of Back-Pain
- Exercise – Regular exercise builds the body and reduces overweight making you physically fit.
- Diet – Focus on making sure your diet must include enough calcium and vitamin D for healthy bones. There are other benefits that you can derive from eating a balanced diet.
- Quit smoking – Smoking is dangerous to health as well as not fit for the spine.
- Posture – The sitting posture should be upright in alignment with the chair and legs placed probably. Use a chair with both headrests, armrests, and back support. Standing also should be in an upright posture.
Exercises for Back Pain
One of the preventing back pain is through exercise such as;
- Cycling a bicycle
They help reduce back pain. You can start these activities with short sessions till it becomes a norm.
How to sleep with back pain
- By lying on your side in a fetal position
- Lying on your back in a reclined position
- Lying flat on your back with a pillow (back pain pillow for sleeping) underneath your knees
- Lying on your stomach with a pillow below your pelvis & lower abdomen
Best mattress for back pain
Mattresses that are medium-firm and that can provide firm support for your body weight and a straight alignment for your spine should be used. A mattress for back pain relief has some unique features as compared to a normal mattress. For instance, they need to be re-adjustable.
Chair for Back Pain Relief
Back Pain can reduce your productivity especially if your job involves sitting down for long hours. The best remedy that you can consider to reduce the intensity of back pain is considering an office chair for back pain relief. They help you maintain the right posture when on your chair in the office or when driving.
It is advisable to see your healthcare professional when you are finding it hard to
perform your normal duties due to pain in your back. A healthcare professional can help you
find ways to manage your pain and will assist you in regaining a better quality of life.