Back pain is a common complaint which frequently results in suffers needing to take time off work and is one of the main causes of disability around the world. Almost every person that you speak to will have had back pain at least once in their life.
Luckily, most people who experience back pain only do for a short period, but there things that you can do prevent or relieve the pain. Prevention is the preferred option, but if treatment is needed, an osteopath may be able to offer relief by improving your body’s mechanics. Fortunately, surgery is rarely required for back pain.
Symptoms of Back Pain
Back pain can present itself in many different forms. The most common symptoms are:
- Dull muscle aches that can be in the lower or upper back
- Sharp pain which is often described as a “shooting” or “stabbing” pain
- Pain radiating down the leg through the buttocks
- Pain that intensifies when certain activities are performed such as lifting, bending or walking
- Pain that reduces when you are reclined
Common Causes of Lower Back Pain
Acute back is pain that comes on suddenly and is often the result of some form of injury caused by lifting or a fall. Back pain that is still experienced after three months would be regarded as “chronic” and is less common. Here are some of the most common causes:
- Ligament of muscle damage. It is often caused by a sudden movement or the repeated lifting of heavy objects. Both of these movements can place strain on the back muscles and spinal ligaments. This form of back pain is more common in people who are in poor physical condition. The result is often excruciating back spasms.
- Ruptured or bulging disks. Disks are the soft material that can be found between vertebrae and act as a cushion. The disks can bulge or rupture and cause pain by pressing on a nerve in the spine. Some people may have bulging or ruptured disks but not experience any discomfort.
- Arthritis. Although not often associated with the back, osteoarthritis can affect the lower back. A condition known as spinal stenosis is caused by a narrowing of the space around the spinal cord and is the result of arthritis in the spine.
- Skeletal irregularities. Scoliosis is a condition when the spine twists or curves to one side, leading to pain. It is rare in younger people.
- Osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition that occurs when bones become porous or brittle and is often known as “brittle bone disease”. It can lead to compression fractures and is more common in older people or those who have frequently used steroids.
Exercises for Back Pain
There are several exercises that you can perform to try and prevent back pain, relieve symptoms, as well as providing long-term strengthening to try and stop the pain from returning. We would always recommend speaking to your primary healthcare provider before embarking on any new exercise program, but here are some of the exercises that are likely to be recommended.
- Bottom to heel stretches
It is performed by being on all fours with your knees directly under your hips. The same should be the case with hands and shoulders. Now slowly move your bottom towards your heels, pause and return slowly to the starting position.
- Knee rolls
Lay on your back with a cushion under your head for support. With your knees bent and together, your feet and shoulders flat on the ground, roll your knees slowly to one side and return. Then do to the other side.
- Back extensions
Lie on your front, resting your weight on your forearms with your hips pressed against the floor arch your back using a push-up like movement. Breathe and hold the position for 5-10 seconds and slowly return to the starting position. Repeat.
- Deep abdominal strengthening
Lay on your back, bend your knees about hip-width apart. Breathe slowly, but as you breathe out, tense the muscles in the pelvic region and lower abdomen and pull them towards your chest. Repeat.
- Pelvic tilts
Lie on your back with a cushion under your head for support. Bend your knees and keep your feet flat on the floor about hip-width apart. Move (tilt) your pelvis towards your feet and slowly arch your lower back. Repeat.
Treatment for Back Pain
Acute back pain is typically relieved by over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers and anti-inflammatory tablets or topical creams. Complete rest is not recommended, and indeed, you should try to continue your normal daily activities as much as possible. If OTC medications aren’t working, your doctor may suggest further medications or therapies.
The most common forms of medication are:
- OTC pain killers – these are most commonly nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen
- Muscle relaxants
- Topical pain killers
- Opiods – such as oxycodone
- Injections – such as cortisone
Your doctor may recommend physiotherapy, osteopathy or exercise programs to help relieve the symptoms and offer long-term solutions. Only in rare instances is surgery required.