Back Pain Causes and How to Cure Back Pain
The common symptoms of Back Pain: of back pain can be related to an injury, an underlying problem, or issues in your lifestyle.
The typical image that often springs to mind when one thinks about back pain is of a person lifting a heavy object and then wincing in agony. It’s true that trauma caused by heavy lifting, injury, or accident can all lead to back pain, but there are also many underlying problems and health conditions that can cause pain as well.
Causes of Back Pain:
The kind of back pain experienced by the majority of people is typically falls into one of the following areas:
Mechanical back pain: A mechanical cause of back pain means that the problem is in the mechanics of the back: the bones, ligaments, disks, joints, nerves, or meninges (the outer membranes that surround the spinal cord). This is the most common type of back pain.
Sprains or strains: A type of mechanical back injury, sprained/strained muscles or tendons (tough, fibrous tissue that connects muscle and bone) account for 85 percent of lower back pain cases in the U.S.
Sciatica: The symptoms of sciatica are distinctive: Sharp, shooting pains originating in the back that travels down through the buttocks into the legs. Sciatica usually affects only one side of the body.
Conditions That May Cause Back Pain:
While a sudden jolt or other form of stress to the back can result in pain, there may be an underlying cause that weakens your back, making it more vulnerable to trauma.
Often, however, there is no single explanation for back pain. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, common causes of back pain include:
Aging of the spine, ligaments, and discs: As your spine ages, the discs can protrude or even collapse, which can cause pain and can also put pressure on the nerves that run through the spine. According to Andrew Sherman, MD, head of medical rehabilitation at the Spine Institute at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. Spinal problems are the most common reason why middle-aged people develop pain and even disability.
Arthritis: The lower back is one of the areas most commonly affected by arthritis which can lead to spinal stenosis, or a narrowing of the space around the spinal cord.
A poorly aligned spine: Some people have back pain because their spine curves in an exaggerated or irregular way, or even curves to the side, a condition known as scoliosis.
Osteoporosis: If your bones are weak and brittle from osteoporosis, a condition in which the bones become fragile and brittle due to loss of minerals, the vertebrae of the spine are more vulnerable to fractures.
Being overweight or obese: Excess weight can put a constant strain on your back, resulting in pain.
Other Conditions That Can Lead to Back Pain
There are also other conditions that have nothing to do with the back but can still cause lower back pain, including bladder infections, kidney stones and other kidney diseases, ovarian cysts and ovarian cancer, endometriosis, and twisted testicles.
In rare cases, back pain can be caused by more serious ailments, including:
Cancer or infection in the spine: If a tumor or infection is present in the spine, it can cause the symptom of back pain. Usually, you would also have other symptoms, such as weight loss with cancer or a fever with infection.
Cauda equina syndrome: This serious neurologic condition results from acute loss of function of the bundle of nerve roots of the spinal canal, known as the cauda equina. It causes weakness in the legs, numbness in the groin area, and loss of bladder or bowel control.
If you’re battling back pain now and need better pain management or want to take steps for back pain prevention, make the effort to undo these bad habits:
Not exercising: “The failure to perform any exercise, particularly abdominal strengthening exercises, may lead to poor posture and increased low back pain,” says Nancy E. Epstein, MD, chief of neurosurgical spine and education at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y. and clinical professor of neurological surgery at The Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, N.Y.
Good exercises for back pain prevention include Pilates or other trunk or “core” strengthening activities that can increase stability in the back muscles. Cardiovascular exercises such as swimming, walking, and bicycling are also advised along with improving flexibility.
Bad posture: “Poor posture can add strain to muscles and put stress on the spine,” says Tae M. Shin, MD, a board-certified orthopedic spine surgeon at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Los Angeles. “Over time, the stress of poor posture can change the anatomical characteristics of the spine, leading to the possibility of constricted blood vessels and nerves, as well as problems with muscles, discs, and joints.”
To avoid back injuries, try to stand with your knees slightly bent and one foot forward to take pressure off the lower back and reduce back strain. When sitting, Dr. Shin advises sitting with your hips slightly higher than your knees.
Lifting incorrectly: Often back injuries occur when we try to lift heavy objects and do so incorrectly. Bend your knees and use the power of your legs, keeping the weight close to the body. Also, be sure to avoid twisting.
Being overweight: Keep your weight under control for back pain prevention. “Being overweight, especially in the mid-section, shifts your entire center of gravity forward and puts additional strain on your back muscles,” says Shin. Try to stay within 10 pounds of your ideal weight to avoid experiencing unnecessary back pain. Exercise and a healthy diet can help toward this goal.
Smoking: Nicotine restricts the flow of blood to the discs that cushion your vertebrae and increases the rate of degenerative change, says Shin. Cigarette smoking also reduces calcium absorption and prevents new bone growth, leaving smokers with double the risk of an osteoporotic fracture compared with non-smokers.
Not getting enough calcium and vitamin D: These nutrients are essential for bone strength. If you don’t get enough calcium and vitamin D in your daily diet, discuss the possibility of supplements with your doctor.
Being sedentary: Limiting activity as a means of pain management when you’re experiencing back pain can be counterproductive. Activity increases blood flow to the affected area, decreasing inflammation and reducing muscle tension, says Shin.
When you’re in the throes of back pain or simply want to ward it off, avoiding these habits will help protect and strengthen your back and your entire body.
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