Back pain is common. It is estimated that 60% of adults will experience back pain at some point in their lives but even children can develop back problems. Back pain can be a dull constant ache, or it can be sudden and sharp. Acute back pain can be experienced for a few days to a few weeks. Back pain is considered chronic if it lasts for more than 3 months.
Many factors can influence back pain, including age, poor posture, desk work, heavy lifting, lack of exercise and smoking. But sometimes you can just be unlucky.
So, is my pain muscular?
Many patients visiting us for the first time think that their pain is coming from the muscles in the back and sometimes it is. But the back is complicated and many other structures in and around the spine can be involved.
The most common causes of back pain include:
- Irritation/compression of the large nerve roots in the low back running into the legs
- Damage to the bones, ligaments or joints of the spine
- Wear and tear/damage to one of the intervertebral discs
- Strain/spasm in the muscles that support the spine
- Osteoarthritis – wear and tear to the joints in the spine
- Stiffness or poor movement in the joints in the spine
What can I do to help?
The single most important piece of advice for most back problems is “keep moving” and continue with normal activity as much as possible. Prolonged bed rest is unlikely to help. Your body is designed to move, so avoid getting stuck in one position for long periods of time.
Specific back exercises can also help.
For more information about simple back pain exercises click here to read “Our 5 favourite back pain exercises” blog.
Hot and cold therapy can also be of help. A warm bath, or a hot water bottle over the painful area may be useful, as can an ice pack. Remember not to put the hot or cold pack directly against the skin – make sure you wrap it in a towel first.
What if the pain doesn’t improve?