What is Back Pain?
Back pain is a very commonly encountered complaint. It is the general term used for all the pains in the back region. It includes pain in the back, neck pain, shoulders, upper and lower back. Depending on the distribution of the pain, the cause can be identified. The nature of the pain could be dull aching to a sharp shooting pain extending to the legs depending on the level of affection. It could arise from the back muscles, vertebral column, spinal cord nerves or inflammation of the spine.
Causes of Back pain
- Wrong posture of the body.
- Spinal stenosis – It is the narrowing of the spinal canal
- Disc prolapse or rupture of disc
- Scoliosis- Abnormal curvature of the spine
- Strain-Lifting very heavy weights or overstretching
- Cauda Equina syndrome – Cauda equina is the name given to the bundle of nerve roots arising from the end of the spinal cord. Patients with this syndrome experience low back pain and numbness in the buttocks and upper thigh.
- Tumors located near the spine.
- Secondaries from a metastatic tumor.
- Using a bad mattress which leads to abnormal curvature of the spine.
Signs and Symptoms of Back Pain
The main symptom is pain anywhere in the back. It can extend upwards towards the neck or below to the thighs and legs. The common symptoms are:
- Pain in the lower or upper back
- History of injury or trauma to the back.
- Numbness and tingling
- Pain extending to the legs
- Stiffness and difficulty in changing the position
- Associated symptoms may be urinary or fecal incontinence.
- Difficulty in bending or changing the position
- Change in the posture due to joint pain.
Back Pain and Pregnancy
Back pain is a very common complaint of all pregnant ladies. The most common reason is the change in the hormones in the body during pregnancy. The hormone relaxin causes loosening up of all the joints of the body. This gives rise to joint pains and muscle aches while changing the position. The growing fetus also puts pressure on the spine. As the baby grows, the abdomen gets bigger and your center of gravity changes. The posture and gait changes and results in back pain. The pain goes on increasing as the pregnancy advances. The increasing body weight also contributes to the existing problem.
The commonest pain is the lower back pain and stiffness. Another common complaint during pregnancy is sciatica. The pressure of the uterus on the sciatic nerve gives rise to pain which begins in the lower back and extends throughout the back of the leg till the feet. It is also associated with numbness and tingling in the soles.
Tips to Relieve Back Pain
- When your back aches and you feel like lying down, it is hard to believe that the best way to relieve the pain is to follow the simple exercise for back pain. During pregnancy the best back exercises are walking and swimming. Muscle strengthening and stretching exercises should be done daily under the guidance of a trained physiotherapist to avoid over straining.
- Give a lot of importance to your body posture. When sitting or standing keep your back straight. If you slump the shoulders due to the growing abdomen, it puts pressure on the spine and worsens the back pain. Avoid standing for long hours and when sitting, keep your legs elevated using a small stool.
- When you need to bend, always do so by bending your knees. If you bend with your legs straight, then the pressure goes on the back. You are advised not to carry weights at this stage, but if you must then make sure the weight is not too much and is equally distributed in both the hands
- The best mattress for back pain is a simple hard mattress. It helps in maintaining the spinal curvature and also minimizes the back pain as compared to a soft sink in mattress.
- When getting up from a lying down posture, always do so by supporting your hand. Avoid jerky and sudden change of positions.
- Hot fomentation is very effective to ease out the back pain and relax those muscles. Hot water bags or electric heating pads are very useful in chronic lower back pain.
- Try relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation. The postures in yoga help in stretching the back muscles very well.
- Other helpful things to try are massages, acupuncture and alternative medicine. They cannot cure the pain if it is due to a structural problem but can definitely relieve the pain symptomatically.
The treatment is generally symptomatic and aimed at treating the cause. You can also take help of a chiropractic expert for the optional treatments. Surgical options like herniated disc therapy and minimally invasive spine surgery may be required in severe cases.