Back Ache Symptoms & Causes

Everyone suffers from back pain and aches at some point in their lives. Backaches are one of the most common reasons an individual goes to the doctor or misses work. Backaches are also the leading cause of disability in the world. Thankfully, there are ways in which you can prevent as well as relieve most episodes of back pain. If prevention does not work, simple home treatments and proper body mechanics will heal your back within a few weeks as well as keep you functional during the healing period. Surgery is rarely needed as treatment for back pain. 

Symptoms of Back Pain

Back aches can range from a simple muscle ache to a shooting, stabbing, or burning sensation. In addition to this, the pain may radiate down your leg or worsen when you bend, sit or stand in a certain way. Walking may also increase your back pain, depending on the cause.

When to See a Doctor 

Back pain has been known to gradually improve with home treatment and self-care. This usually happens within a few weeks. It is important for you to consider contacting your doctor if your back pain:

  • Persists after a few weeks.
  • It is severe and does not seem to improve with rest. 
  • Spreads down one or both of your legs, especially if the pain spreads past the knee. 
  • Causes feelings of weakness, numbness, or tingling in one or both of your legs. 
  • It is accompanied by unexpected or unexplained weight loss. 

There are rare cases in which your back pain may be an indication of a serious medical problem. If your back pain – seek medical attention:

  • Causes new bowel or bladder problems.
  • It is accompanied by a fever. 
  • Comes after a fall, blow to your back, or other injuries. 

Causes of Back Ache

It is normal for back pain to develop without a cause that your doctor is able to identify with imaging or tests. Conditions commonly linked to back pain include:

  • Muscle or Ligament Strain: When repeated heavy lifting or sudden awkward movement takes place, your spinal muscles and ligaments can become strained. For individuals in poor physical condition, constant strain on their back may cause painful muscle spasms. 
  • Bulging or Ruptured Discs: The disks in your back act as little cushions between the bones (vertebrae) in your spine. There is a soft material inside these disks that can rupture or bulge, causing them to press on a nerve. You can, however, have bulging or ruptured discs without experiencing any back pain. Disk disease is most commonly found incidentally during X-Rays of the spine for some other unrelated medical reason. 
  • Arthritis: An individual’s lower back can be affected by Osteoarthritis. Arthritis in the spine can, in some cases, lead to a narrowing of the space found around the spinal cord. This condition is known as spinal stenosis. 
  • Osteoporosis: When the bones are weakened to a point where they break easily, it is known as osteoporosis. When this happens in the back, your spine’s vertebrae can develop painful fractures. This often happens when the bones become porous and brittle. 

The Risks

Back pain does not affect only one, age group. Children, teens, and adults are all at risk for getting back pain. There are, however, factors that could put you at risk of developing back pain much sooner. 

  • Age: The older you become, the higher your risk of developing back pain. Back pain often starts in individuals between 30 and 40. 
  • Lack of Exercise: When the muscles in your back and abdomen are unused, they become weak. This has been known to lead to back pain.
  • Excess Weight: Excess body weight may put extra stress on your back, causing intense back pain. 
  • Disease: There are diseases such as cancer and certain types of arthritis that may contribute to back pain in individuals. 
  • Improper Lifting: When you lift items using your back instead of your legs, you may cause yourself back pain. 
  • Psychological Conditions: Individuals who are prone to depression and anxiety have appeared to be at a greater risk for back pain. 
  • Smoking: Back pain has been found at increased rates amongst smokers. This may be because smoking causes more coughing, which may lead to herniated disks. Smoking may also decrease the blood flow to the spine and increase the risk of osteoporosis. 

Prevention of Back Aches

It is possible for individuals to avoid back pain as well as prevent its recurrence by improving their physical conditions. Learning and practicing proper body mechanics may also help individuals keep their backs healthy and strong. 

To make sure that your back stays strong & healthy, you can:

Exercise:

Doing regular low-impact aerobic activities has proven to increase strength and endurance in your back as well as allow your muscles to function better. Walking and swimming are great ways to exercise. It is important to do exercises that don’t strain or jolt your back.  

Build Muscle Strength and Flexibility:

By doing abdominal as well as back muscle exercises, you’ll strengthen your core. This will help condition your muscles so that they work together like a natural corset for supporting your back. 

Maintain a Healthy Weight:

Excessive weight placed on your back strains back muscles. For individuals that are overweight, losing some weight will prevent back pain. 

Quit Smoking:

Smoking has been proven to increase the risk of lower back pain. The risk of back pain increases with the number of cigarettes smoked per day. Quitting will greatly reduce this risk. 

Be sure to avoid movements that twist or strain your back. 

Stand Smart:

Beware of slouching. It is important that you try to maintain a neutral pelvic position. If you stand for long periods due to work, try and invest in a low footstool that will take some of the load off of your lower back. Alternate feet by placing one foot on the stool at a time. A good posture can reduce the stress on your back muscles. 

Sit Smart:

Choosing a good chair is very important. Your chair of choice needs to have good lower back support, an armrest as well as a swivel base. You can always opt for placing a pillow or rolled towel in the small of your back so that it can maintain its normal curve. Your knees should always be at hip level, and be sure to change your position frequently. Every half an hour is ideal.

Lift Smart:

If possible, avoid heavy lifting at all costs. If you need to lift something, do so by using your legs. Place the weight on your legs and keep your back straight, do not twist it and bend only at the knees. Hold whatever it is you’re picking up close to your body and if the object is awkward, find someone that will help you lift the object. 

In a Nutshell

Back aches know no age. When an individual suffers from backache, it can usually be treated with rest and better posture. Avoid things like heavy lifting and if you do need to lift, do so by placing the weight on your legs. There are possible medical reasons for back aches, although it is often not first diagnosed. Disk problems can be found on X-rays, although they are not always initially looked at when X-Rays of the back are taken.

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