Back pain is one of the most commonly suffered problems across the United States. In fact, around 80% of people suffer from back pain at some point during their lifetime. What makes back pain hard to diagnose, treat, prevent and diagnose is that it can strike at any age, in any person. There are statistics, however, to show that back pain mostly affects people who are aged 35 and above. This can often be attributed to the fact that your muscles and bones start to weaken down as you get older – although there are much more complicated reasons for back pain.
The Structure Of Your Back
The back area of the human body is extremely complex and consists of numerous interconnecting structures. Some of the key components of your back include joints, muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments and of course, bones. All of this is supported by your spine, which acts as a central connection. Your spine contains 24 bones in total which are referred to as vertebrae. Your spine also has bones which are commonly referred to as coccyx and sacrum.
Between the bones found in your spine, there are shock-absorbing discs that give you flexibility. These discs are responsible are allowing you to bend, twist and perform day-to-day activities. Without these discs, there would be too much pressure on the back at any one time – resulting in injuries commonly. Within the spinal column, there are also nerves that are connected to the rest of your body and your brain. These nerves work much like any other human nerve – they allow the transportation of pain, for example. The below image shows the spine in detail and some of the key components that can be found within a spine.
The Spine and Discs
As you can see from the image, there are multiple nerves found throughout the spine. The four types of nerves that you will find are the Cervical Nerves, Thoracic Nerves, Lumbar Nerves, and Sacral Nerves. There are multiple nerves within each nerve section, and these are labeled on the image.
Each nerve controls certain parts of the body. For example, the Cervical Nerves are responsible for the head and neck areas, while the Lumbar Nerves are responsible for the Leg muscles. Because of this, it’s often extremely difficult to know where the pain is originating from. Much like a hurting tooth, it takes a while to find the exact cause of pain. However, from centuries of research, the most common source of back pain is actually related to a muscle that is strained. Other common reasons for pain include strained tendons and ligaments, as well as damage to one of the core components of the back.
Serious back problems are unlikely to occur unless you meet one of the following criteria:
You are aged 35 or above and are experiencing back pain for the first time in your life.
You have other medical conditions that may be associated with the back area.
You are experiencing other symptoms, such as weight loss, fever or general discomfort throughout your body.
SYMPTOMS: COMMON SYMPTOMS OF BACK PAIN
As with many other medical conditions, there are numerous symptoms that are related to back pain. Unfortunately, many of the common symptoms found in back pain are also associated with other problems – which makes the initial diagnosis somewhat frustrating.
If you are currently experiencing back pain that is originating from the lower back area, then you may be experiencing general soreness, stiffness or tension. In this case, I would advise not worrying. In 90% of all lower back pain cases, the pain will subside on its own and you should see a noticeable improvement within 5 – 7 weeks. We refer to this pain as “non-specific” pain as the originating cause can be extremely diverse. For example, you could have overworked your body at work yesterday – resulting in soreness.
We categorize back pain into three different categories which help both yourself and the physiotherapist to determine the seriousness of the pain. These are known as acute back pain, sub-acute back pain or chronic back pain. You are able to self-diagnose your category based on the following:
acute back pain – pain which lasted less than four weeks in total.
sub-acute back pain – pain which has exceeded the four-week mark, but has not yet reached the 12-week mark.
chronic back pain – pain which has exceeded the 12-week mark, and is on-going.
However, it is important to note that if you experience other symptoms, you should always consult with your GP. Some of the symptoms which may make your problems somewhat immediate include:
- weight loss that is unexplained, and not due to a change in lifestyle.
- numbness and/or pain in your legs, including your thighs, calves and your buttocks.
- loss of your ability to control your bladder and/or bowel.
- constant pain that is excruciating to the point where you are staying awake at night.
- pain throughout your whole spinal column, as opposed to one specific section.
If you have any of the above symptoms, please consult with your Doctor or GP immediately. If your conditions worsen, you should never hesitate to dial emergency services.
CAUSES: COMMON CAUSES OF BACK PAIN
For the majority of people, there is no single cause for back pain. Back pain can originate from day-to-day activities, such as falling over or overworking your body. This is extremely common when people visit their doctors, as their doctor will be unable to instantly diagnose the underlying cause of the problem. When your Doctor is unable to diagnose the cause, we refer to this as non-specific lower back pain.
However, it’s important to note that certain activities will increase the likelihood of developing back pain during your life. In addition to this, if you are currently experiencing back pain, the below factors may also aggravate the back pain further – making the problem worse. Some of the most common causes include:
- standing, sitting or bending down for prolonged periods without exercising and stretching the muscles.
- engaging in strenuous exercises for long periods of time – such as pushing, pulling and/or carrying.
- walking and/or running with a naturally bad posture.
- being overweight as a result of an unhealthy lifestyle.
- a non-serious or serious accident or injury.
However, the cause of your back pain may be related to damage that has occurred within your spinal column. Some of the most common damage caused to the spine include:
herniated discs; when one of your spinal discs is bulging, and putting an increased amount of pressure onto your spinal nerves.
osteoporosis; a condition where your bones weaken and begin to compress as a result of your bones losing density.
fractures; any sort of crack that may exist within one of the bones found in your back.
osteoarthritis – a type of disease that affects the joints of your spine, causing gradual wear-and-tear.
Other causes of back pain can be serious, such as an infection or cancer. However, it’s important to note that these causes are extremely rare, and you should not panic. Cancer is extremely uncommon in cases of back pain. As explained earlier, roughly 80% of Americans experience back pain at some point during their life.
DIAGNOSIS: HOW TO DIAGNOSE BACK PAIN
As explained earlier in the article, I would never advise you to self-diagnose yourself without seeing a qualified Doctor. Visiting your Doctor will be pain-free and there will be no added stress. Once you have booked an appointment with your GP, he or she will attempt to diagnose lower back pain from the symptoms you describe.
Your GP may perform an examination, and prescribe any set of medications. Following on from this, there will be no further contact unless the problem persists. Typically, if you are still experiencing your back pain a few weeks later, then your GP may suggest that you visit your local hospital and/or GP’s surgery to have tests conducted. Some of the most common tests include:
- an MRI scan; a comprehensive scan that utilizes radio waves and magnets. This allows the practitioner to see the inside of your body in detail – thus allowing for a real diagnosis.
- an X-ray; a type of scan that reveals your inner body.
- blood tests; taking a sample of your blood.
Your GP may also ask you to perform specific actions and/or movements to see when the pain is more prominent. If the pain only occurs during specific exercise or movements, then your GP may be able to diagnose the problem without having to conduct tests.
TREATMENT: TREAT YOUR BACK PAIN
Your doctor may choose to prescribe medication or any other method of treatment. However, these treatment options are often not suitable for many individuals. In addition to this, because back pain cannot be diagnosed and treated easily, there may be mistakes made down-the-line. Depending on your symptoms, your doctor will attempt to provide the best possible treatment available. You will be given the option to accept or decline any specific line of treatment; in which case your GP should be able to suggest other methods of treatment.
However, in the majority of cases involving back pain, your GP will simply recommend self-help treatment options. Because back pain is common, your GP may ask you to use an inversion table to see if the symptoms and pain are alleviated after using the table for a number of weeks. This is now becoming more and more frequent as a self-help option because it is pain-free and can be performed in the comfort of your own home.
In short, the best inversion tables are medical devices that are used to invert upside down. They effectively reverse the effects of gravity and give your body a chance to combat the root cause of the problem. Medical studies and clinical research has shown that inversion tables are extremely effective in treating multiple problems – including herniated discs, lower back pain and even fractures. They can be purchased from any reputable retailer and can be used in the comfort of your home.