Back pain is a common issue for many people. According to the British Chiropractic Association, 49% of the population may be suffering from a bad back and most people will suffer with one or more episodes of back pain during their lives.
Back pain can come in many forms. Some people will experience pain in the lower back, while others will feel it further up, closer to the neck. In some cases, the pain is constant, in others it will ebb and flow. In this article, we take a look at the types of pain commonly experienced, recovery from back pain, and how to know when it’s serious.
The common causes of back pain
Some of the most common causes of back pain include:
Joint injuries: Our backs were not originally designed for standing upright and it is not uncommon for the spinal joints and those between the sacrum and pelvis to twist out of place and lock. This can damage ligaments, cause spasms in the overlying muscles and sometimes trap nerves. Chiropractic manipulation can restore normal function to joints and is a medically recommended intervention.
Muscle strain: This can either be from a sudden movement that has twinged the muscle, such as lifting a heavy object or making an explosive action without taking the time to properly warm up. It could also be from sustained movement; this is especially true if you are not in the best physical shape.
Bulging or ruptured discs: Discs are soft tissue that fit between the vertebrae of your spinal column and act as shock absorbers. Sometimes one may bulge or herniate in a way puts pressure on spinal nerves and can cause conditions such as sciatica, in addition to back pain.
Arthritis: This condition can affect any joint, including the spine, particularly around the lower portion of the back. Occasionally arthritis can lead to a condition called stenosis, which arises when the bony openings in the spine begin to narrow, trapping nerves.
Osteoporosis: This is where the bones and vertebrae of the spine become brittle. Although osteoporosis is not painful in itself, it can cause vertebrae to fracture which can cause pain and spasm in the overlying muscles. Generally, women are more at risk from osteoporosis than men, although both genders can suffer from it. Age is also a risk factor, as we age our bone density decreases from around 35 years old. To find out more about this condition, read our blog post.
How long does it take to recover from back pain?
Although symptoms will often resolve in a few weeks, back pain is often recurrent. Many of our patients benefit both from intensive treatment to resolve their symptoms and rehabilitative care to stabilise their joints and muscles and occasional care to prevent recurrence. Early intervention often leads to a better prognosis: as pain becomes chronic, the prognosis worsens.
How do I know if my back pain is serious?
Although back pain can be painful, it rarely has a serious underlying cause.
If you are experiencing back pain that lasts longer than a week we recommend speaking to a chiropractor or medical professional (or better still, see a chiropractor to help prevent back pain in the first place).
If back pain is accompanied by any of the following symptoms then you should seek urgent medical advice immediately as it could be a sign of something more serious:
- Numbness in the legs, genitals or buttocks
- A fever
- The feeling of being very weak or lacking energy
- Chest pain
- Swelling in your back
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Difficulty going to the toilet
- Unexplained weight loss.
How to treat back pain
Like most health problems, a great deal of good can be done by simply getting enough physical exercise. If you are already experiencing back pain, then try to remain as active as you can (within your own limits).
Gentle stretches and exercises can also help ease any pain and stretch out the muscles of your back. The BCA recommends these stretches to help improve your spinal health.
For short term relief, an ice pack can help relieve pain in specific locations. Anti-inflammatory painkillers such as ibuprofen can also help. Though, as with all medicine, be sure to read and follow the instructions carefully.
In today’s world we do so much sitting down; at home, at work or in the car. Wherever you are sitting try to maintain correct posture and spinal alignment. This will not only help reduce pressure on your back, but good posture can also help prevent back pain developing in the first place. We recommend changing positions and moving every 20 – 30 minutes to avoid putting strain on your neck and back.
Speak to us
The best way to combat back pain is to keep your back in check in the first place. Seeing a chiropractor regularly can help avoid the onset of unwanted aches and pains. We specialise in assessing, diagnosing and managing conditions of the spine and will provide a treatment plan to help get you better and keep you well. Get in touch to find out more about how we can help.