Back pain is an unpleasant reality many of us experience. Whether it crops up on occasion due to an injury or strain; or even if we suffer from chronic back pain as a result of an underlying issue… It can prove to be an inescapable discomfort that interferes with our movement, ability to do some of the things we need to, and also for us to live happily pain-free.
As our spinal cord is a highly complex composition of bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments and disks, it requires everything to be in alignment and functioning harmoniously with each other, in order for us to be able to freely move around without discomfort or pain.
When one or more of these parts making up the structure of our spine aren’t working quite right, we can feel a host of unpleasant symptoms that cause pain.
So, what is back pain caused by? Here, we deconstruct the 4 main culprits of back pain, and what we can do about them…
4. STRAIN & INJURY
Did your back pain come on suddenly? Was it caused by an injury or strain that’s causing tension and spasms in your muscles? If you can zero in on a particular event that caused your aches, you’re likely looking at a pulled muscle, damaged disk or strained ligament being the culprit. Strain and injury is the probable origin of your pain if your acute symptoms started after:
Many acute back problems such as strains and injuries last no longer than six weeks, and can be treated with proper rest. Consult your doctor if these symptoms are particularly troublesome or persist without improvement.
3. POOR POSTURE
Sitting or standing without having our spine in proper alignment can cause the load of your body weight to be unevenly distributed on our spines. While our spines are incredibly strong, over time if they are repeatedly pushed beyond their limits, their networks of delicate joints, discs and muscles can become overworked and result in pain. Low back pain, plus tightness in your shoulder muscles and neck can result from improper posture. Some examples of poor posture that may be causing your back pain:
Being aware of keeping your spine in alignment; with all your vertebrae stacked on top of each other evenly, your shoulders back and down, and your tailbone in a natural curvature, can improve your posture and eliminate pain. Massage combined with heat and cold therapy can alleviate the painful symptoms.
2. STRUCTURAL ISSUES
Persistent back pain that develops without an event you can remember provoking it; or even nagging discomfort that lasts for several months, may be the result of some structural problems in your spine. They may have slowly progressed, and sustained more damage over time if left untreated. Some structural causes of back pain include:
- A Bulging, Ruptured or Herniated Disc: Your vertebrae have cushioning materials between the bones called discs. These soft cushions naturally degenerate as we age due to the ligaments holding them in place weakening. They become more susceptible to rupture as we get older, thus we need to be more conscious of not twisting in an awkward fashion and being more gentle on our spinal cord to avoid this. When these discs rupture or bulge, they press themselves onto nearby nerve root. The common name for this condition is Sciatica, and is characterized by shooting, sharp pains through your glutes and down into your legs.
- Arthritis: As we age, inflammation can cause issues in our joints, especially our hips and lower back. Arthritis presenting in the back is called Spinal Stenosis, and is caused by the narrowing of our spinal canal, which in turn puts pressure on the surrounding nerves. Stiffness, discomfort and even numbness or weakness in our arms and legs can result from Spinal Stenosis, causing lower back pain. Arthritis usually occurs in people aged 60 and older.
- Scoliosis: Characterized by the spine curving in an unnatural way, structural abnormalities in the spine such as Scoliosis usually present and are able to be diagnosed between the ages of 10 and 12.
- Osteoporosis: Bone density in our body decreases with our natural aging processes, making bones hollow and brittle. This places women over 50 in particular at risk of spinal fractures.
Many structural back problems can be treated with exercise, heat and cold therapy, physical therapy or anti-inflammatory medications, as well as massage and stretching to relieve pressure on surrounding nerve roots. Consult your doctor if you suspect a structural issue in your spine or body is causing your back pain, to discuss treatment options and potential risks.
1. UNDERLYING MEDICAL CONDITIONS
Underlying medical conditions that have not yet been diagnosed may be the cause of your back pain. Some conditions whose symptoms include back pain are:
- Kidney Stones or Infections: Sharp, severe pain in your side or low back pain back may be pointing to a possible kidney problem.
- Bladder Infections & Pelvic Inflammatory Disease: Dull aches in your lower abdomen can radiate into low back pain, as surrounding tissue is inflamed.
- Shingles: An infection of the spinal nerve, this condition is characterized by intense burning and blisters on the skin of several areas of your body, as well as lumbar spine pain. Chronic nerve pain can persist and Shingles can be potentially life-threatening, so consult your doctor immediately if you notice any of these symptoms.
- Spinal Tumors: Cancer of the spine can result in tumors that apply pressure on surrounding nerves. These masses can be malignant (cancerous) or benign (non-cancerous), so be sure to check with your doctor if your back pain is localized, radiates to other areas of your body and is combined with a reduced sensitivity to temperature.
WHEN TO TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR
In many cases, back pain can gradually improve with rest, massage and lifestyle adjustments such as maintaining a healthy weight, good posture and optimal overall health. Of course, if your back pain persists for longer than a few weeks or if you’re experiencing other symptoms along with your localized pain, it’s critical to consult your doctor immediately to rule out any potentially serious medical issues that might be the cause.
By checking in with our bodies on a regular basis, exercising sufficiently, and becoming more aware of how we move around, we can eliminate many of the potential triggers for nagging aches, pains and discomfort in our backs that interfere with our daily activities.
We hope you find some relief from your back pain by identifying its possible cause here, and addressing some ways you can show your back the love and respect it deserves... Because we all should live happily free from back pain, and feeling our best every day.
Wishing you health, happiness and strength…
Jane | Slabway Health Consultant