Back pain is a very common condition.One in three individuals will suffer with back pain and one in 10 will suffer from recurrent problems.
What causes back pain and who can get it?
Your spine is made up of a number of bony components called vertebra which work in unity to hold you upright and help you move. You have 24 vertebae, linked together and divided into sections which cover the neck (cervical), the rib cage area (thoracic) and lower back (lumbar) as well as a less moveable section contained within the pelvis (sacral). Between each vertebra is a ‘disc’ (a cushion type pad filled with fluid), which maintains space between the vertebra and acts as a type of shock absorber.
The whole spine is held in place by a complex system of muscles and when your back is working properly it allows you to bend and turn within a range of movement.
When you damage your back, muscles become protective and can cramp or become tight, restraining movement. This is a dilemma in most instances of back pain as this spasm can compress nerves and other sensitive structures which can make the pain worse and take longer to recover.
That’s why nowadays keeping active is encouraged and ancient recommendations of bed rest are frowned upon by professionals in a vast majority of cases.
Back pain is not usually a serious problem
in most instances , but can become more serious if caused through a disc being ruptured ( slipped disc ) where a small part of the centre of the disc is forced through the outside and puts pressure on adjacent nerves. Or there are serious bone or muscle defects.
What are the symptoms of back pain?
Back pain is pain or ache anywhere on your back. The pain can reach up into your neck (and also effect shoulders and arms) or around your midback, and into your lower back (where it can also give rise to symptoms through your bottom and legs and sometimes as low as your ankle and foot.
Pain usually lasts for a few days to sometimes a few weeks and is normally self healing. When it lasts longer than a few weeks it is known as chronic back pain.
How is it normally diagnosed and treated.
You do not normally need to go to a doctor to know you have back pain.
When you have pulled or strained something in your back the best thing to do is keep moving, carrying on with normal activities as well as you can. This helps to prevent the muscles around the spine from getting stiff and seizing up.
Because moving about may be painful, you may need to start taking pain relief medicines regularly like ibuprofen or aspirin to make this easier.
On onset of pain
applying a cold pack ( or pack frozen peas ) just in the first day or so can be helpful, thereafter applying both heat and cold alternatively over a ten minute session daily to the painful area can improve circulatory function, reduce inflammatory activity, help reduce spasm and aid towards a quicker recovery.
Persistent reoccurrences of back pain should be investigated, but a majority are caused through poor posture, muscle weakness or mobility.
Maximum Fitness have a dedicated back rehab training routine which incorporates all major postural strength/conditioning together with relevant mobilising stretches and is well worth doing regularly to aid back health or promote recovery after a back pain episode. You can book a training session with an instructor for as little as £35 and this can be very helpful in both short and long term.
What other factors can cause back pain?
There are a multitude of stresses that our back has to endure on a daily basis.
Also we were never designed to walk upright and our back favours an all fours stance in function. Maintaining an upright posture in itself is an effort for the back, but less so if good posture can be maintained. How we sit and stand regularly can have tremendous implications on our back.
Also the modern age has caused a huge change in reduced activity and created an RSI epidemic on upper limbs and neck as well as structural weakness and reduced mobility in lower limbs. Some activities in work or play can also be contributory in occurrences of back pain.
Other factors such as diseases like arthritis play a part in many causes of pain, but even in these instances regular activity is recommended.
Keeping strong and supple are the best ways to combat and prevent back pain.
When should I seek medical help?
A majority of cases heal themselves quite quickly without medical help.
But if the pain has got worse over a few days or weeks despite your attempts to reduce this you should go to your doctor for advice.
If you experience back pain together with severe pain or numbness in your limbs or other places you should see your doctor straight away..
If you get chronic back pain that lasts for more than six weeks you should get advice from your doctor about the best way to deal with this.
In addition Maximum Fitness can provide efficient help to identify causes of back pain, help to control contra-indications
(things/activities that make it worse) and help with localised massage and mobilisation therapy to reduce symptoms as well as providing direction towards activities/training that can be proactive ( help to make pain symptoms better )
Additional information on back pain can be sought from www.backcare.org.uk