Back pain is caused by various things. On occasion, it can have a simple cause that can be treated easily without much risk to the patient if they are seen in time by their doctor who may prescribe anti-inflammatory medication or recommend rest for a few days. However, there are also dangerous causes of back pain which leave people immobile and in great pain. Some of these are serious enough to require medical treatment with surgery, although this is rarely necessary if the patient can be seen in time by their doctor.
Most back pain is due to one or more of the following causes:
• Slipped discs (a “slipped disc” is where some of the material that is supposed to be in the middle of a disc has moved out of its proper position and is pressing on a nerve).
• Inflammation caused by an infection (e.g. osteomyelitis, particularly common after an injury involving a cut to the leg or foot)
• Vertebral fractures. These can occur after a sudden injury, e.g. falling from a great height, but usually occur gradually with age and wear and tear)
• Genetic predispositions (if someone in your family has had problems with their backs, then you may be more susceptible)
• Obesity (you will have a larger mass in front of your center of gravity and this will put excessive pressure and strain on the back muscles, bones and ligaments).
Ways to relieve back pain
Ways in which you can relieve back pain include the following:
If the pain is caused by a slipped disc, then gentle exercises to strengthen the muscles around the back can help (e.g. pilates or yoga). It is important not to put too much strain on the affected muscle for at least 6 weeks after an operation.
If you are obese, then this will be putting excess strain on your back muscles and ligaments. This is not only bad for you, as it can cause swelling in the joints, but can also lead to problems such as varicose veins due to increased pressure on the venous system. You should try to lose weight gradually by eating a low fat diet with plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit and increasing your activity levels (e.g. walking to the shops instead of using a car, etc.)
If you have serious back pain which does not go away after a few days or weeks, then you should visit your doctor so they can diagnose the problem. After an initial diagnosis, if the pain is caused by a slipped disc they will refer you to a physiotherapist for advice on how to do back exercises and give medication that may help initially. If the pain is more serious then they may refer you to a chiropractor or orthopedic surgeon who can carry out investigations (e.g. an MRI scan) which tell them whether surgery is necessary or not.
If you are elderly and have back pain, the first thing to do is to try to lose weight if you are obese (see above). Back pain can cause problems in the urinary system as well, causing “accidents” which leave elderly people feeling very embarrassed. Asking for help with chores etc. can prevent this from happening and the person suffering from back pain will be glad to have a better quality of life.
In addition, if you suffer from arthritis then it is important that you keep moving as much as possible and do your best not to become sedentary (sitting around all day). Gentle exercises can help loosen stiff joints and prevent creaking caused by articular cartilage wearing away with age.
Gentle exercise, e.g. walking the dog, helps the spine to stay flexible when otherwise you might just be sitting around at home all day doing nothing much – this inactivity leads to stiffness of the body which makes it more likely that you will have back trouble.
Have a relatively active occupation, e.g. gardening, carpentry, etc. as this means that the spine is more flexible and can cope with changes in weather better than someone whose job is sedentary (e.g. a desk-bound accountant).
There are several things that you can do to help relieve back pain. The most important thing is not to put too much strain on the effected muscle, and seek medical advice if your back pain persists after a few days or weeks. Call us today at 205-637-1363 to get started.