Back Pain: Symptoms & Types

Back pain is a very common condition and can affect adults of all ages.It is estimated that one in five people will visit their GP in any given year because of back pain. And 80% of adults will experience at least one episode of back pain at some point in their life.

Chronic back pain is less common than acute back pain, but it is still very widespread. Chronic back pain is the second most common cause of long-term disability (after arthritis). After stress, it is the leading cause of long-term work-related absence. A recent study found that one in every 10 people reported having some degree of chronic back pain.

The back is the workhorse of human body. This remarkably strong structure literally carries the burden of the entire body, and is responsible for almost every move you make. This makes it susceptible to injury, and the resultant back pain can be quite immobilizing. It is estimated that four out of five adults suffer from back pain at least once during their lifetimes, and it is also one of the main reasons for being absent from work.

People who suffer from chronic back pain usually benefit from regular stretches and bends and easy to apply treatments. The reasons for back pain are many; specialists have identified falls, bad posture or sudden jerks or even osteoporosis as some of the root causes. These problems could result in a herniated disk, or Sciatica, Spinal stenosis, Spondylosis and Spondylolisthesis.When a spinal disk presses on a nerve, it causes a herniated disk.

Types of Back Pain

There are two types of back pain.

specific back pain pain that is associated with an underlying health condition or damage to the spine

non-specific back pain – where the pain is not caused by serious damage or disease, but by sprains, muscle strains, minor injuries or a pinched or irritated nerve

Sometimes the herniated disk presses on hard on the sciatic nerve, resulting in sharp shooting pain right across the lower part of the body, this is known as sciatica.

Spinal stenosis is a result of arthritis. The space around the spinal cord and the nerve roots narrow because of the bone growth, pinching a nerve.

Arthritis being a degenerative disease also affects the spine, causing Spondylosis.When the vertebras of the spinal column slip forward, over lapping each other the painful condition of Spondylolisthesis occurs

Back pain can also be classified according to how long the symptoms last. For example :

acute back pain – the pain does not last longer than six weeks

chronic back pain – the pain lasts for more than six weeks.

Symptoms of Back Pain?

Most people have experienced back pain sometime in their life. The causes of back pain are numerous; some are self-inflicted due to a lifetime of bad habits. Other back pain causes include accidents, muscle strains, and sports injuries. Although the causes may be different, most often they share the same symptoms.

Persistent aching or stiffness anywhere along your spine, from the base of the neck to the hips.

Sharp, localized pain in the neck, upper back, or lower back — especially after lifting heavy objects or engaging in other strenuous activity.

Chronic ache in the middle or lower back, especially after sitting or standing for extended periods.

Back pain that radiates from the low back to the buttock, down the back of the thigh, and into the calf and toes.
Inability to stand straight without having severe muscle spasms in the low back

Some common reasons for Back Pain

There are several reasons why you experience back pain.

Stress factors

The symptoms of simple back pain often occur suddenly and can be triggered by a particular movement, but the causes may have been building for some time.

Some of the most common causes of stress and strain on the spine include :
Slouching in chairs

  • Driving in hunched positions
  • Standing badly
  • Lifting incorrectly
  • Sleeping on sagging mattresses
  • Being unfit
  • Generally overdoing it
  • Inactivity and the wrong sort of movement are usually at the root of simple back pain.

Inactivity makes the muscles go slack and weak so they are unable to support the back properly. This leaves the back more vulnerable to damage when certain movements put too much strain on one area.

Often, the problem is caused by a strain or tear to the muscles, tendons or ligaments around the lower spine. In turn, this can produce painful muscle tension and spasm.

Even a minor problem can cause a lot of pain when you stand, bend or move around. Pain sometimes comes on suddenly, sometimes gradually, but usually it only lasts a few days or up to a week.

Work-related back problems

The spine wasn’t designed for sitting in front of a computer or behind the wheel of a car for long periods. The consequences of such actions are often all too uncomfortably, and painfully, apparent.

Musculoskeletal problems

Awkward movements and bad posture cause musculoskeletal disorders that affect the full length of the spine, from the neck to lower back, as well as the shoulders, arms and fingers.

Spending long periods of time in the same position makes spine and muscle problems more likely. Fortunately, simple steps taken early on can reduce the risk of such problems developing.

Head and neck strain

Tension in the supporting muscles of the neck, caused by physical or emotional stress, makes them tight and uncomfortable. This tension is most often felt in the upper back and back part of the neck.

Tension or stress headaches may be experienced, with discomfort and pain spreading from the upper back and neck over the head. This causes the sensation of something pressing on the top of the head or being wound tightly around it.

Tiredness, trying to read small words on a screen and the pressure of deadlines all put our muscles under pressure – not just the muscles in the neck and back, but our eyes, too. Eye strain causes tired eyes, which then find it harder to perform.

Lower back pain

Lower back pain is an increasingly common problem. An injury may be responsible, but often it’s the consequence of poor posture or an awkward twisting movement, bending or reaching – or a combination of these, along with inactivity which results in stiffness and poor flexibility. Being overweight, especially if excessive, also adds to the discomfort and pain.

The muscles and ligaments supporting the spine become traumatised, bruised or inflamed. Most lower back pain doesn’t result from injury to the bones of the spine, but from the strain and pressure put on the tissues whose job it is to support the spine.

Repetitive strain injury

Repetitive strain injury (RSI) is caused by repeated overuse and injury to the muscles of the hands, wrists, arms and shoulders.

Treatment for Back Pain

A successful cure for lower back pain can vary from person to person depending on the reason and preexisting conditions connected to the problem. Treating an injury is much different than treating a deformed spine. Furthermore, even with the same conditions that cause a person back problems; the same treatment for lower back pain may not work for each person.

Most drugs will treat the effect, but not the underlying reason for the pain. Each prescription should be evaluated carefully before consumed to ensure it will not cause worse problems in the future. Likewise, some supplements can have very harmful effects when used with certain drugs. Consult a physician about any change in dietary intake as treatment for lower back pain. These problems include diabetes, increased risk for heart disease, and even cancer.

The downsides of these treatments can easily be avoided with a safe, drug-free approach to healing back pain.

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