At least 80% of adults experience back pain owing to multiple causes. Given the magnitude of this number, it has become increasingly common to normalize the condition. In many cases, a treatment is not required, but lifestyle adjustments are mandatory to make sure you don’t learn to live with the pain like it belongs in your body.
The human back is a network of bones, muscles, disks, ligaments, and tendons. A problem in any of the components in this intricate network can cause back pain. There are also several instances when the cause cannot be traced.
Although it can can affect anyone at any age, back pain is more common among adults between between 35 and 55 years of age. A few other contributing factors for back pain include: age, fitness level, weight gain, occupational risk factors, and health condition.
Types of back pain
Acute back pain: It is typically short term and lasts anywhere between a few days and a few weeks. This kind of pain usually resolves on its own with some degree of self-care. It doesn’t limit bodily functions and is a result of a disruption in the way the components of the back function together.
Subacute low back pain: When the pain lasts longer than a few weeks, it’s called subacute and lasts between 4 to 12 weeks.
Lumbar pain: The lower part of the back just below the ribcage is called the lumbar region. Pain here can be intense but temporary too, depending on the cause.
Chronic back pain: When the pain persists beyond 12 weeks, perhaps after an injury or any other cause, it’s deemed a chronic pain. Roughly around 20% of those affected by acute low back pain develop chronic low back pain, showing persistent symptoms at one year. Treatment to relieve chronic low back pain is often successful, but there remain cases that do not respond to medical or surgical treatment.
Back pain causes
The pain itself varies from individual to individual, it could be a sharp or stabbing pain, dull and achy pain, or a throbbing/burning cramp, all of which corresponds to the underlying cause for the pain. Back pain could be a result of:
- Muscle soreness from over-activity
- Muscles and ligament fibers overstretched or injured
- Disk tear or degeneration due to aging, accidents, etc.
- Disk herniation when the jelly-like center (nucleus) of the disk pushes against its outer ring (annulus)
- Scoliosis, an abnormal curve of the spine seen in children, primarily during the teenage years, and in older people with arthritis
- Degenerative spondylolisthesis due to aging or general wear and tear that make it hard for your ligaments and joints to keep your spine in position
- Spinal stenosis when the space around the spinal cord narrows and increases pressure on the spinal cord and nerves
- Vascular or arterial disease
- Treatment of disease such as cancer
Back pain treatment and prevention
There are no guaranteed ways to prevent back pain, but you can reduce your risk of being susceptible by: exercising, ensuring caution and tact while lifting heavy objects, staying within a healthy weight range, avoiding smoking, and ensuring proper posture.
Treatment for back pain rests strictly on the advice of a physician. Your diagnosis could include physical examination, and imaging tests such as X-rays, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), CAT scans (computerized axial tomography), bone density tests, etc.