Back pain is one of the most pervasive ailments in our society. It’s estimated that nearly 80% of Americans alone experience some type of back pain in their lives. It is one of the most common reasons persons miss work and is one of the leading sources for workman’s compensation claims.
The good news is that most cases can be prevented, and if back pain does strike, most of the incidents can be treated and even cured without back surgery.
Causes of Back Pain
1) Back Strains
The most common type comes from straining one’s lower back muscles and ligaments, from either straining to lift a heavy object, from a fall or awkward movement or a back spasm. Back pain is also caused by poor posture, a sedentary lifestyle, and/or sitting on a soft sofa or chair for long periods of time. The sciatic nerve in your lower back gets pushed out of position when you lower back muscles become weak, and the result is the spinal cord and its member nerves can touch a muscle, ligament or bone and cause a back problem. This pain, or sciatica, is where you can feel a shooting pain down your legs or in your buttocks at the base of your spine. In most of these situations, the pain can be relieved and cured by non-invasive means.
2) Structural Damage These are more serious sources of back problems, and in some cases these require surgery. However, even most of these conditions can be treated without surgery.You should start with a specialist who can diagnose the exact cause of your back problem. Only then will you be able to treat the pain with any real hope of recovery. The most common types of structural back pain are:
a) Sciatica – Sciatica is not actually a condition but actually a symptom of a back condition. Sciatica results from:
- Piriformis Syndrome–The most common cause of sciatica, this is caused when there is a muscle imbalance in your lower back or pelvis, causing a pulling or tugging that makes the Piriformis muscle put pressure on the sciatic nerve.
- Herniated or Bulging Discs –Sciatica can also be caused by pressure on the nerve due to a herniated or bulging disc. A herniation is when a disc protrudes out from between the vertebrae and this can either be caused by an event like a car accident or a football injury, or by months or years of uneven pressure due to muscle imbalances.
Unfortunately, no amount of ultrasound, electrical stimulation, medications, cortisone injections, general exercises or chiropractic adjustments can correct the muscles imbalances that have created your sciatica.
3) Spinal Stenosis. Sciatica can also be caused by pressure on the nerve due to a narrowing of the spinal canal. This can be caused by several things:
- Arthritic narrowing of the spinal canal– As we grow older, the body’s ligaments can thicken. Spurs (small growths) may develop on the bones and into the spinal canal. The flat surfaces on each vertebra that form the spinal column also may begin to thicken.
- Trauma—If you’re in a car accident or have a fall, fragments of bones can portrude into your spinal canal and eventually touch your spinal cord.
- Heredity—If the spinal canal is too small at birth, symptoms of spinal stenosis may show up in a relatively young person. Structural deformities of the involved vertebrae can cause narrowing of the spinal canal
- Fluorosis—Fluorosis is an excessive level of fluoride in the body. The condition may lead to calcified spinal ligaments or softened bones and to degenerative conditions like spinal stenosis.The most important thing you can do if you are certain you have spinal stenosis is to ensure that you maintain as close to normal curvature in the spine. The more your spine is pulled out of place the tighter the space gets in the spinal canal. Again, identifying and addressing muscle imbalances is crucial.
- Osteoporosis-When your bones become brittle, the vertebrae can fracture and come into contact with your spinal cord or other spinal nerves.
4) Isthmic Spondylolysis. Sciatica can also be caused by Isthmic Spondylolysis, yet is much less common. Spondylolysis occurs when one vertebrae slips forward and places pressure on the adjacent vertebra. If abnormal motion allows this vertebra to move back and forth nerves in the spinal canal may be affected causing pain, numbness, tingling or weakness in the legs. Many individuals who have this condition may not have symptoms while others may experience long term back pain and or sciatica. Spondylolysisis most common in the lower spine. The most common cause is degenerative disease (like arthritis) and the slip usually occurs between the fourth and fifth lumbar vertebrae where there is the most curvature in the spine. Muscle imbalances play a major role in two ways:
1. Degenerative diseases like arthritis are much more common in areas of the body where there is uneven pressure and wear and tear.
2. Muscle imbalances increase the amount of curvature in the lower spine making this condition much more likely to come about. Other causes of Spondylolysis include stress fractures (which are often caused by repetitive hyper-extension of the back, commonly seen in gymnasts), and traumatic fractures. Spondylolysis may also occasionally be associated with bone diseases. As with the other three conditions, muscle imbalances have a lot to do with Spondylolysis. Other rare possible causes of back pain include cancer or infection of the spine and Cauda equina syndrome, which is a neurological condition affecting the nerves in your lower back and legs,and causes loss of bladder and bowel control. This is a serious condition and if it happenes to you, your should go to the hospital immediately. Most causes of back pain can be determined by a physician who will examine your back and do a simple series of tests like raising your legs one at a time, assessing your ability to stand, sit, and walk. The doctor will most likely test your reflexes and determine where your pain is coming from, and this will enable him or her to rule out certain potentially serious causes.
I had a fall several years ago and hurt my back. It was sore but the next day was so bad I was totally immobilized. It was sciatica, so painful that I stayed in bed several days. I couldn’t bend down to put on my shoes or put on my pants. I called an orthopedic surgeon who was a friend of the family and several days later went to see him. The pain was receding but I still wanted him to look at it. He determines that I had a lower back strain and said it would go away in a couple of days, which it did. He gave me some exercises to do to relieve pressure on my lower back and strengthen my lower back muscles, and in a week I was 99% back to normal. But I will admit, however, that the pain was unlike any I had ever experienced –very sharp and radiating down my leg. I was lucky it was only a strain. If you hurt your back and the pain lasts more than 72 hours, you should see your doctor. In most cases, it’s a sprain like mine, but if the pain becomes longer-lasting, it could indicate you have a more serious injury. For more information on the various types of back problems and how you can avoid surgery and cure your back problem, click here.
Mission Statement: Relief For Back Pain– We will report on each facet of back pain and the respective treatment options you can pursue. Plus we’ll profile some of the resources available for both treating back pain as well as various pro-active exercises and lifestyle changes you can employ to keep back pain from getting worse. Odds are you wouldn’t be reading this unless you’ve hurt your back at some point in your life–most likely recently. We believe that most back problems can be treated successfully without surgery, an opinion shared by the medical community. However, I said “most,” not “all.” So we’ll provide you with information about the most serious types of back problems, the things you should be watching about your own personal condition, and help you get your back pain behind you so you can lead a normal, healthy life.
Published by Relief For Back Pain
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