Managing Back Pain: Stopping it Before it Stops You

January 16, 2020 5 min read

Managing Back Pain: Stopping it Before it Stops You

No matter who you are or what you’re background, we can all agree on one thing - there is nothing good about back pain. Back pain seriously hinders your ability to do almost anything physical, and the longer it goes on the more it can be a sign of something more serious.

Back Pain: What Causes It?

There is no one cause of back pain - there are many things that could be causing it.  The first thing that comes to mind is an actual injury, like a fall or lifting something incorrectly, causing you pain to any area of your back.  An incident like this can often cause you acute back pain - that is back pain that lasts around six weeks or less.

But chronic back pain (back pain that lasts three months or longer) can be caused by a myriad of factors, often ones we are not aware of.  Some of these take hold slowly over time - take arthritis as an example.  Sometimes it can be a degenerative bone disorder, such as osteoporosis and degenerative disc disease, or a birth defect, such as skeletal disorders like scoliosis.

There are many risk factors that can lead to back pain.  Some are unavoidable like age - as we get older our bones weaken and our muscle mass decreases, leading to weaker backs and higher susceptibility to back issues, especially towards the lower back.

Other risk factors can be better managed.  Carrying extra body weight puts pressure on your back, and can lead to back issues after extended periods of time.  Similarly, a lack of exercise leaves your back muscles weak, and helps contribute to weight gain.  Smoking can also help lead to back pain, as it reduces blood flow to the lower spine and hinders your body from delivering vital nutrients to your spinal discs.

The Stages of Back Pain

As outlined by the Ministry of Health, there are three main curves of the back - cervical (the curve at the top by your neck), thoracic (the outward curve in the middle of your back), and lumbar (the lower inward curve of your back).  Your back is helped by large muscles and ligaments to maintain these curves, with discs acting as shock absorbers.  Lower back pain in particular is one of the most common reasons for lost days at work.

Just like every back is different, two people with back pain most likely have two completely different types. Short-term back pain, or acute back pain, is often caused by an injury - say a sporting injury or by lifting something incorrectly.  Acute back pain will often heal over time, provided you take care of it and don’t place too heavy a load on it while healing.

Chronic back pain, or pain that lasts for more than three months, can be caused by any of a wide array of origins.  Chronic pain can be experienced in many ways, including a muscle ache or shooting pains that often worsen through use.

Scarily, some chronic back pain can be a sign of something much worse.  Long-term back pain could be seen as a sign of:

  • Kidney infection
  • Cancer
  • Sciatica
  • Degenerative disc disorder
  • Spinal infection
  • Osteoporosis
  • Arthritis

Not everyone’s back pain will be a sign of something more severe, but if you find you have shooting pains down your legs, numbness below the waste, or consistent and worsening pain, make sure to get yourself checked out by a doctor.

But do not fear - most back pain will not lead to something so severe, and with just a few changes to your daily habits, you can help make sure that back pain doesn’t rule your life.

Solutions to Back Pain

Naturally, the best solution for back pain is to prevent it from occurring in the first place.  In today’s modern society it is easy to lead a sedentary life and be far less active than we used to be.  One of the easiest ways to prevent back pain is to lead a more active life and exercise more.  Not only does exercise strengthen your muscles making your back stronger, but it also helps increase your flexibility and keeps of excess weight.

Posture is another key to avoiding back pain.  Many of us spend our days at a desk looking at a computer or on the couch looking at our phones, and with this often comes terrible posture.  Maintaining good posture is important to maintaining the integrity of the curves in our spine, and for keeping our backs strong. Healthline have put together 12 exercises to help sort out your posture. Think about it this way - good posture never injured anyone.

Quitting smoking can also help avoid back pain.  Smoking decreases the body’s blood flow, making it harder for the back, particularly the lower back, to receive nutrients.  Smokers also heal slower than non-smokers, meaning that if you are injured as a smoker, it will take you longer to recover.

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But if you do find yourself suffering from back pain, what can you do to remedy it?  One of the easiest things to do is to lay in bed waiting for it to heal.  But in reality this is bad for your back - if you find yourself afflicted with back pain, keeping active is the best thing for it.  Often simple things like walking regularly can help alleviate most back pains - the team at HealthNavigator have thrown a few ideas together for you to check out.

Of course it is always best to be conscious of your back pain - if in doubt, see a healthcare professional, especially if you find yourself with symptoms that may mean something worse.

Has anybody noticed the embarrassing fact that science is about to clone a human being, but it still can’t cure the pain of a bad back?” - Marni Jackson, Pain

Nobody enjoys back pain.  It affects everything you do and stops you from doing most of what you want to do.  But back pain doesn’t need to rule your life.  Being more aware of back pain can help you address it appropriately and take the best course of action if you do hurt your back.

A few minor changes to your lifestyle to make it a bit more active can help reduce your chances of suffering from back pain, and reduce recovery time too.

Remember, back pain can be the beginning of something more serious - ignore it at your peril.

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