Back Pain: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Back pain
Photo credit: pexels/Karolina Grabowska

Due to Coronavirus pandemic, many people have been doing office works from home through internet. So they do that sitting in a chair in front of computer for long time that can cause back pain. If you work from home during the Covid-19 situation, you need to know all about back pain, its symptoms and treatment. Also, you should know how to stay fit and healthy during the pandemic. 

What is back pain 

Back pain is one of the leading causes of visits to the doctor and work disability in the world. Although back pain can be severe and uncomfortable, it is usually not serious.

Lower back pain, also called low back pain, is not a disease, but a symptom of different medical conditions. Discomfort is not limited to that part, as it can be felt along the spine and in the legs.

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The pain may be permanent or it may go away and then return. Fortunately, there are measures to prevent or alleviate episodes of back pain. If prevention fails, simple home treatment and proper body mechanics may help. If there is no improvement, there are a number of medical options, including surgery, which in turn offer different alternatives.

Back pain usually results from a problem in one or more parts, such as:

  • Vertebrae or vertebral bodies (bone structures that make up the spine)
  • Discs (capsules of tissue with a soft, gelatinous center that acts as a shock absorber)
  • Ligaments
  • Muscles
  • Spinal cord
  • Nerves
  • Organs in the area
  • The skin around the area

How the spine works

The spine is the central support structure of the body. It keeps us upright and connects the different parts of our skeleton to each other, such as the head, thorax, pelvis, shoulders , arms, and legs. Although the spinal column is made up of a chain of bones , it is flexible due to elastic ligaments and spinal discs.

The lower back is where low back pain develops. This part of the body is made up of:

  • Bones, including the lumbar and sacral vertebrae
  • Damping discs between vertebrae
  • Nerves and the spinal cord
  • Muscles and ligaments
  • Blood vessels

Types of back pain

There are different types of pain. Acute pain is defined as severe, but it lasts for a short time. Chronic pain generally occurs every day and is characterized by being deep, intense, and electrical. When the pain spreads to another part of the body, such as the leg, it is considered radicular pain and is better known as radiculopathy. Not all back pain reaches the leg.

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Causes of backache

The most common problems of back pain are tension and problems in its structure. Some of these problems are as follows.

Tension in muscles or ligaments

It occurs when heavy objects are lifted incorrectly or repeatedly. In other cases, sudden awkward movements can cause discomfort. If the physical condition of a person is not good or if he overdoes the activities, tension can also be generated. An example is the feeling of pain and stiffness after a few hours of hard work or playing a sport.

Back pain can occur immediately and last less than six weeks. Pain that lasts longer than three months is less common than acute pain. Sometimes it can develop without an obvious cause, but the doctor can identify it with an imaging test (X-ray or MRI).

Structural problems

Vertebrae are interconnected bones stacked on top of each other that make up the spinal column. Discs are areas of tissue that cushion the space between each vertebra. Disc injuries are common causes of back pain. This is because discs can swell, herniate, or rupture, and nerves can become pinched when this happens.

A swollen disc pressing on the nerve that travels from the back to the leg can cause sciatica or irritation of the sciatic nerve. Sciatica has the following symptoms:

  • Pain
  • Numbness
  • Paralysis

Back pain also occurs if the spine has an abnormal curve. Scoliosis is a condition in which the spine curves to one side. This can lead to back pain even when the scoliosis is not severe.

Arthritis

The osteoarthritis also affects the lower back. In some cases, arthritis in the spine leads to narrowing of the space around it. This condition is called spinal stenosis.

Osteoporosis

The vertebrae in the spine can develop compression fractures if the bones become porous and brittle. The loss of density and thinning of the bone is known as osteoporosis. These fractures can cause severe pain.

Risk factor’s

Anyone can experience back pain, even children and young people. Research has not yet shown what contributes to developing this pain. However, these factors put a person at greater risk of developing it.

Age: back pain is more common as the years go by, beginning to be noticeable in your 30s or 40s.

Lack of exercise: Weak and unused muscles in the back can lead to this condition.

Excess weight: carrying a lot of weight puts extra stress.

Diseases: Arthritis or cancer can contribute to pain.

Improper lifting: use your back instead of your legs for loading.

Physical conditions: people prone to depression and anxiety have a greater possibility of pain.

Smoking: Smoking prevents the body from delivering enough nutrients to the spinal discs.

Back pain symptoms

Back pain is characterized by the following obvious symptoms:

  • Painful sensation in the lower back
  • Shooting pain that can radiate down the leg to the foot
  • Inability to stand straight without pain
  • Decreased range of motion and ability to flex

If symptoms are due to tension or uncomfortable movement, they usually last for a short time, such as days or weeks. If they last more than three months, it is chronic pain.

Symptoms that indicate a serious problem

If your back pain does not improve within two weeks, it may be a serious health problem. These symptoms are:

  • Loss of bowel or bladder control
  • Numbness in one or both legs
  • Trauma from a fall or blow to the back
  • Constant, severe pain that is worse at night
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Pain associated with a shooting sensation in the abdomen
  • Presence of fever

It is recommended that a person visit their doctor if they experience back pain for the first time after age 50. Also if you have a history of cancer, osteoporosis, steroid use, or drug or alcohol abuse.

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Back pain diagnosis

The doctor examines the back and evaluates the ability to sit, stand, walk, or lift the legs. It even evaluates the level of pain on a scale from 0 to 10. In this way it explains how the patient’s movement works according to the pain.

These evaluations help determine where the pain is coming from. Also, how far you can move before the pain forces you to stop and if you have muscle spasms. It also helps rule out other possible problems.

If a specific condition causing your back pain is suspected, the doctor will order more tests:

X-rays: These images show the alignment of the bones and the presence of arthritis and broken bones. The images alone do not show problems with the spine, muscles, nerves, or discs.

Magnetic resonance imaging or CT scan: These reveal if there are herniated discs or problems with bones, tissue, tendons, nerves, ligaments, or blood vessels.

Blood tests: A complete blood count and blood chemistry can help determine if you have an infection or other condition that is causing the pain.

Bone scan: In specific cases, the doctor will use this test to look for bone tumors or compression fractures caused by osteoporosis.

Electromyography (EMG): This is a test to measure electrical impulses produced by the nerves and that are responded to by the muscles. This test confirms if there is a compression of the nerve causing herniated disc or widening of the spinal canal.

Back pain treatment

Acute back pain improves within weeks of home treatment. Over-the-counter pain relievers and the use of heat and cold may be all that is needed. Bed rest and the use of girdles are not recommended, as they do not contribute to muscle strengthening.

Activities can be continued as pain allows. You should try to do light activity, such as walking, and routine activities. Likewise, activity that increases pain should be suspended, but activity that increases pain should not be avoided for fear of it. If home treatment doesn’t work, your doctor will suggest stronger medications and other therapies.

Medicines

Most episodes of back pain are relieved with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as the following:

Pain relievers: Some are over the counter, such as ibuprofen or naproxen. These help relieve acute back pain. Although they are available over the counter, they should be taken under medical supervision. If these don’t work, your doctor will suggest prescription pain relievers.

Muscle relaxant: If pain is mild to moderate and does not improve with pain relievers, your doctor may prescribe a muscle relaxant. These medications can cause dizziness and drowsiness.

Topical pain relievers: Creams, ointments, or ointments to rub into the skin at the site of pain.

Narcotics: Certain medications such as codeine or hydrocodone can be used for a short time under medical supervision.

Injections: If the above measures do not relieve back pain and it extends to the lower part of your leg, the doctor may inject cortisone (anti-inflammatory medicine). Cortisone injection helps decrease inflammation around nerve roots, but pain relief is not permanent.

If the back pain is severe, other medications that focus on the response parts of the pain are usually prescribed.

Medical evaluation and supervision are essential. Your doctor may recommend cortisone steroid injections for severe back pain, but this must be part of a general treatment plan. The effect of the injections is also not permanent and can be ineffective if there is no proper medical evaluation.

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Home remedies

Using ice packs can ease discomfort and help reduce inflammation in acute stages of pain. Hot compresses relieve pain when inflammation has subsided.

There is no fixed program that teaches people how to deal effectively with the condition of back pain. Education emphasizes the importance of being active, reducing stress and worry, and learning how to avoid future injuries.

Exercises and therapies for back pain

Physical therapy is the cornerstone of back pain treatment. A physical therapist can apply a variety of treatments, such as heat, ultrasound, electrostimulation, and muscle release techniques. All of these can be applied to the back muscles and soft tissues to reduce pain. An expert in Physio Brisbane states that physical therapy is the cornerstone of back pain treatment, which provides a holistic approach to treatment and prevention.

As the pain subsides, the therapist can teach the patient a series of exercises. These help increase flexibility, strength in the back and abdominal muscles, as well as improve posture. Similarly, it is necessary to know the proper technique for lifting objects. Regular use of these techniques helps prevent pain from coming back.

Surgery is a remedy to remedy back pain. It is commonly reserved for structural abnormalities that have not responded to previous treatments. Surgery to partially remove and replace discs and vertebrae may be done to relieve pain caused by degenerative bone diseases. There are minimally invasive alternatives that the patient can access, usually when the condition is detected and treated in a timely manner.

Prevention

A person may be able to avoid back pain or prevent its recurrence by improving their physical condition. This can be accomplished by practicing proper body mechanics.

To maintain health and strength in the back

Exercise: low-impact aerobic activities, those that do not put pressure on the back. These activities increase endurance and strength in the back, allowing the muscles to function better.

Walking and swimming: these are very good options. The doctor can help a person choose the best option.

Developing Muscle Strength and Flexibility: Back and abdominal exercises help these muscles work like a natural back brace. Flexibility in the waist and upper legs aligns the pelvic bones to improve sensation in the back. Your doctor or physical therapist can recommend specific exercises for this.

Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight affects your back muscles.

Proper body mechanics

Get up correctly: Maintain a neutral pelvic position. If you are on your feet for a long time, the following is recommended. Place one foot on a low step to take some of the load off the lower back, alternating feet. Good posture can reduce stress on your back muscles.

Sitting Correctly: Choose a seat with good lower back support with armrests and a swivel base. Knees and hips should be kept level. It is important to change the position frequently, at least every half hour.

Lifting objects correctly: Heavy lifting should be avoided in general. However, if it is necessary to do so, the legs should do the work. This is accomplished by keeping your back straight, without twisting, and by bending only your knees. The load must be close to the body. If you can get help, it would be better. There are additional complications that can occur from improperly carrying heavy objects, such as hernias.

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