Back pain is a very common complaint. According to the Zoom PT, USA, approximately 80% of all Americans will have low back pain at least once in their lives. Back pain is a common reason for absence from work, or visiting the doctor’s.
According to the NHS (National Health Service), UK, back pain is the largest cause of work-related absence in the United Kingdom. Although back pain may be painful and uncomfortable, it is not usually serious.
Even though back pain can affect people of any age, it is significantly more common among adults aged between 35 and 55 years.
Experts say that back pain is associated with the way our bones, muscles and ligaments in our backs work together.
Back pain is one of the most common medical problems, affecting 8 out of 10 people at some point during their lives. Back pain can range from a dull, constant ache to a sudden, sharp pain. Acute back pain comes on suddenly and usually lasts from a few days to a few weeks. Back pain is called chronic if it lasts for more than three months.
Treatment for back pain depends on what kind of pain you have, and what is causing it. It may include hot or cold packs, exercise, medicines, injections, complementary and alternative treatments, and sometimes surgery.
Risk factors of Back Pain
A risk factor is something which increases the likelihood of developing a condition or disease. For example, obesity significantly raises the risk of developing diabetes type 2. Therefore, obesity is a risk factor for diabetes type 2. The following factors are linked to a higher risk of developing low back pain:
- A mentally stressful job
- Pregnancy – pregnant women are much more likely to get back pain
- A sedentary lifestyle
- Age – older adults are more susceptible than young adults or children
- Gender – back pain is more common among females than males
- Strenuous physical exercise (especially if not done properly)
- Strenuous physical work
Signs and Symptoms of Back Pain
A symptom is something the patient feels and reports, while a sign is something other people, such as the doctor, detect. The main symptom of back pain is, as the name suggests, an ache or pain anywhere on the back, and sometimes all the way down to the buttocks and legs. In most cases, signs and symptoms clear up on their own within a short period.
If any of the following signs or symptoms accompanies a back pain, you should see your doctor:
- Weight loss
- Elevated body temperature (fever)
- Inflammation (swelling) on the back
- Persistent back pain – lying down or resting does not help
- Pain down the legs
- Pain reaches below the knees
- A recent injury, blow or trauma to your back
- Numbness around the genitals
- Numbness around the anus
- Numbness around the buttocks
Causes of Back Pain
The human back is composed of a complex structure of muscles, ligaments, tendons, disks and bones – the segments of our spine are cushioned with cartilage-like pads. Problems with any of these components can lead to back pain. In some cases of back pain, its cause is never found.
Strain– the most common causes of back pain are:
- Strained muscles
- Strained ligaments
- Lifting something improperly
- Lifting something that is too heavy
- The result of an abrupt and awkward movement
- A muscle spasm