Back pain can be divided into two main types: lower back and upper back.
Lower back pain
Low back pain is usually caused when a ligament or muscle holding a vertebra in its proper position is strained. Vertebrae are the small bones that make up the spinal column and hold the highly sensitive spinal cord. When a vertebra is dislodged from its proper position, slight to severe pain ensues. This pain can also be deceptively misplaced, since nerves from the spine reach the entire body.
Lower back pain can be caused by physical activity like lifting and carrying, a fall or injury, extended periods of sitting or standing, strenuous exercise, as well as stress. Lower back pain may occur when the muscles, joints, bones, and connective tissues of the back become inflamed as a result of an infection.
Lower back pain that is accompanied by loss of bladder or bowel control or numbness in the arms or legs might be the result of a spinal injury and should receive immediate medical attention.
Upper back pain
Pain in the upper, or “thoracic” back, is felt between your neck and your lower back. Much like lower back pain, this type results from the vertebrae in the back being dislodged because of injured ligaments or muscles. Upper back pain can come from a twisting motion, poor posture, or an injury. Common causes include carrying, extended periods of sitting, and even violent coughing or sneezing. Back pain can also be related to scoliosis, a condition which affects the shape of the spine.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of back pain include:
– Pain or stiffness in the back or legs (often attached to certain positions or movements or breathing)
– Tingling or numbness in the calf or foot, which indicates a herniated disk or pinched nerve.
– Muscle spasms
– Inability to rotate the neck or move the shoulders
How is it treated?
Occasional, mild back pain can be treated with:
– Heating pads and ice packs
– Ibuprofen, aspirin, or other painkilling, anti-inflammatory medications available over-the-counter
– Back support belts
– Physical therapy
– Targeted exercise regimens
Ongoing, intensifying back pain can be a sign of a serious condition and should be referred to a doctor.
Preventing lower back pain is a matter of avoiding things which place stress on the spine and back muscles.
– Avoid lifting heavy objects
– Practice proper posture when sitting and standing
– Stretch and warm up properly before strenuous, intense exercise
Massage, exercise and alternating heat/cold spot treatments (ice packs/heat pads) are the most popular ways to relieve and prevent back pain without using prescription medicine.
Do you have questions about back pain? Can you recommend treatments that have worked for you? Let us know in the comments below…