Understanding Back Pain
By Dale Powell
It’s a real pain in the… well back I suppose. Do you ask yourself, “Why me?” Well it might be comforting news for you that lower back pain is a very common issue as 80% of people will suffer its wrath at some time in their life.
While you can have back pain at any age, it’s said that people between the ages of 35 and 65 are to occur and suffer lower back pain more than any other age groups. No matter what age you are, lower back pain can strike, often based on your lifestyle and daily habits.
Do you play sport? Are you sat down for long periods of time? Ever had a car or other accident? It are these kinds of factors that can determine the onset of lower back pain. I have played an impact sport for years, starting from the age of 11 and I remember the day I experienced my first bout of pain in my back. I became stiff, ridged, restricted in my movements and I had no idea what was happening to my body.
For years I played at an amateur level, but once I moved ‘up the ranks’ to semi-professional I was introduced to physiotherapy, chiropractic and sports massage as these services were all part of the normal semi-pro lifestyle. It wasn’t until these treatments became part of my lifestyle when my lower back pain became a nuisance of the past.
What is Lower Back Pain?
As mentioned lifestyle can be a contributing factor to pain in your lower back, but what is actually going on in there! The pain is often caused by muscle strains, tendon or ligament damage, built up scar tissue, inflammation, alignment issue or damage to other structures in the back.
Signs & Symptoms
- Muscle spasm
- Reduced range of motion
- Pain aggravated by walking, sitting or bending
- Muscle strain, or “pulled” muscle, often caused by overstretching
- Joint sprain, possibly caused by extra stress from poor posture, improper lifting, or repetitive twisting
- Herniated Disc, or “slipped disc, caused by poor posture, improper lifting, or extended sitting
- Osteoarthritis, or arthritis of the lower back, is a degenerative condition that refers to wear & tear of the spine.
- Sacroiliac Dysfunction, from injury to fibrous joint material in the pelvis can manifest as pain at the base of the spine that may radiate down the leg.
- Sciatica describes sharp pain or pressure on the sciatic nerve that radiates down the leg and usually results from lower-back problems.
When you notice lower back pain, rest for 2 to 3 days and avoid any activity that aggregates the pain, including bending forward or sitting for long periods. If the back pain is rather traumatic then Ice is recommended. Apply the ice for 20 minutes every 3 hours for up to 72 hours after injury. (Cold sprays and patches can substitute for ice.) If the pain is not traumatic or you’ve had a history of back pain, you can try using a heat pad every few hours. Once the pain has subsided, light stretching can be performed to reduce the stiffness and speed up the healing process. Use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen to assist in reducing inflammation if need be but seek medical advice before hand.
Beyond that, other remedies may include stretching, gentle massage, chiropractic services, acupuncture, electrotherapy, taping, and even moderate exercise designed to strengthen your core and overall health.
Seek Professional Help If…
- Pain is worse at night
- Pain is constant and doesn’t subside after lying down
- Trouble urinating
- Numbness around genitals or buttocks
- Pain in chest or high up the back
- Pain down the legs and below the knees
- Swelling in back or fever that may indicate infection
- Unexplained weight loss
As public health officials say, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” so be sure to stretch and warm up before any strenuous exercise or sports. In short, get up and moving, quit acting like a weekend warrior, and use proper body mechanics.