Back Ache

Overview

Back ache is a common health condition that people experience. People will visit their doctor’s office or take a day off from work due to pain in their lower back. It is one of the leading causes of disability and most people will experience back ache at least once in their life. 

There are various causes of this condition, but fortunately, you can take steps to prevent or ease an episode of back ache. Often, proper body mechanics and simple home remedies will restore optimal functioning and heal back pain in a matter of weeks. And while surgery is rarely suggested, it can treat severe back conditions.

Symptoms

Stabbing or shooting pain in the lower back 

Muscle ache

Pain radiating to the legs

Pain that eases when you recline

Worsening pain when you stand, walk or bend

Causes of Back Ache

Back ache often develops without a clear cause that doctors can identify using imaging or tests. There are types of back pain that comes on suddenly and last for a few weeks. These kinds may be caused by improper position while lifting heavy loads or due to a fall.  On the other hand, pain in the back that lasts for more than three months is less common than acute back pain. Some of the most common causes include the following:

Ligament or Muscle Strain - repeated or sudden awkward movements and lifting heavy loads can strain your back muscles and spinal ligaments. If you are not physically conditioned, this constant strain on your back muscles and ligaments will lead to painful spasms. 

Ruptured or bulging disks - the spine has disks acting as cushions between them to facilitate smooth movement. The material between these disks can rupture or bulge and pinch a nerve. In other cases, there are ruptured disks that do not cause any pain at all.  Often, disk problems are only discovered when a patient has spine X-rays. 

Arthritis - or Osteoarthritis can also affect your lower back and cause acute pain. Arthritis causes narrowing of the spaces between the spinal cord. This condition is also known as spinal stenosis.  

Osteoporosis - As people age, the bones tend to become brittle and porous. Some can develop compression fractures in the spine vertebrae which can lead to chronic back pain. 

Skeletal Irregularities - one common example of a skeletal irregularity is Scoliosis or the condition wherein the spine curves to one side. This can lead to back pain as the person reaches middle age. 

Diagnosis and Treatment

Lower back pain or lumbago is not a health disorder. It is a symptom of various types of medical problems that need attention. In most cases, you experience pain in one or more areas of the lower back. The issue can include the following:

Muscles

Ligaments

Nerves

Spinal structure, vertebral bodies or vertebrae

Back pain may also be a symptom of problems with nearby organs like the kidneys.

Back Ache Treatment

Most patients of back acheroblems do not need extensive treatment for their condition. Often, over-the-counter medication is sufficient. On the other hand, severe back pain cases may call for stronger treatments. These medications will be provided and used under the close supervision of your doctor.  

Back Ache Medications

Most episodes of back pain are easily relieved with the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen and naproxen. Others may also take pain relievers and analgesics such as acetaminophen, but they do not have anti-inflammatory properties.  

Likewise, caution must be applied when taking ibuprofen medications while you have kidney or stomach problems. Avoid taking more than the recommended dose of OTC medications without discussing your condition with your doctor. Improper use of some medicines may have negative side effects. 

Alternative Medication Options

There are other medications that you can use to alleviate the pain in your lower back. Some of them include:

Topical Ointments and Rubs - there are products that are highly effective in reducing back ache. These products contain ingredients like lidocaine and ibuprofen. These are found to work better than taking pills in relieving painful backs.

Opioids - these are stronger medications prescribed for severe pain conditions. It includes oxycodone and a combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen. These medications act on the brain cells to alleviate pain.  On the other hand, opioids use has a high risk of addiction, thus it should be used with caution. 

Muscle Relaxants - these can also be used to reduce pain with muscle spasms in your lower back. Pain is reduced when these medications act on your central nervous system.  

Steroid Injections - some doctors may prescribe the use of cortisone steroid injection for severe back pain conditions. However, pain relief from this medication wears off after about three months. 

Surgery - this is usually the last resort and is rarely recommended for back pain relief. This treatment method is reserved for abnormalities in your structure and if you have not responded to other types of treatment and medication. Surgery may be done when a patient has a severe unremitting type of pain and nerve compression that causes muscles to weaken.

Spinal fusion can help eliminate pain in the spine as it moves. It is a type of surgery wherein painful vertebrae are fused into a single, more solid bone. Likewise, partial removal or replacement of the disks and vertebrae can be done to degenerative bone diseases to relieve pain.

Alternative Medicine   

Apart from the usual medications, there are also alternative therapies that may help relieve back pain. Some of these include the following:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Massage
  • Chiropractic adjustments
  • Acupuncture
  • Relaxation techniques

However, be sure to consult your doctor before taking any alternative medications. 

What are the Normal Conditions?

Lower back pain is very common and most modern people suffer from this ailment at least once in their lifetime. Back ache can result from tight muscle and joints, weak muscles, poor posture, stresses of life, poor body mechanics and normal aging. 

Normally, lower back discomfort is not serious and it improves once treated properly. However, when not managed, even minor symptoms can develop into a severe and lasting condition. 

With proper body mechanics, the stress on your back will be lessened and there will be better control over the extremes in your spinal movement. The spine is a column of individual bones moving smoothly. It is made up of ligaments and disks that help limit and cushion movements.  

To keep your spine healthy and your back in a normal condition, here are some guidelines to consider:

Keep spine neutral with one slight arch or with a natural inward curve

Sit with your feet flat on the floor or on a footstool. Knees should be level or somewhat lower than your hips. Keep your head straight and shoulders relaxed. Keep your back’s mild inward curve maintained while keeping your buttocks secure at the back of the chair. 

When lifting heavy loads, bend your knees and hips to let your legs do the lifting. Keep the object that you are carrying close to your body while keeping your back straight.  

When turning with a heavy load, pivot your feet instead of twisting your body. Don’t try to lift over your shoulder height and get help if it is too heavy for you to carry alone. 

Risks of Having Back Ache

Anybody can develop a painful lower back including children. The following factors can put you at a greater risk of having back pain. 

Age - this condition is more common to people aging 30 and above

Lack of Exercise - unused back muscles and abdomen can weaken and become prone to back ache

Excess Weight - more weight means more stress on your back

Diseases - arthritis and cancers can contribute to the development of back pain

Smoking - reduces blood flow to the lower spine, thus the body is not able to deliver enough nutrients to keep the disks healthy and functioning properly. 

Psychological conditions - patients prone to anxiety and depression also have greater risk of having back pain. 

Prevention 

Back pain conditions can be avoided or prevented by improving your physical health and by practicing proper body mechanics. 

Consider the following suggestions to keep your back strong and healthy:

  • Regular Exercise - go for low-impact physical activities that will not strain your back. It will increase endurance and strength in your back and allow better functioning of the muscles. Swimming and walking are ideal exercises for people with back pain problems.
  • Flexibility and Muscle Strength Building - target back and abdominal muscles to strengthen the core and condition the muscles to work together. Likewise, flexibility in the hips and upper legs aligns the pelvic bones to improve back condition.  
  • Healthy Weight - excess weight strains the back muscles, thus losing weight will help prevent back pain. 
  • Quit smoking 

When to Seek Medical Attention

Most cases of back ache improve gradually with self-care and home treatment. Within a few weeks, the pain subsides and patients can continue with their normal activities. If your case does not improve a week or so, it is time for you to seek medical attention. 

In some cases, pain in the back can be a sign of a serious medical condition. If your back pain cause bowel or bladder problem, you have a fever or it is caused by an injury, seek immediate care. 

Likewise, consult your doctor for back achethat:

Does not improve with rest

Pain that extends to the legs and below the knees

Accompanied by sudden weight loss

Cause numbness, weakness or tingling of the legs

Further, consult your doctor if you are having back ache for the first time and you are over the age of 50, or you have a history of excessive drug or alcohol use, cancer, steroid use or osteoporosis. 

Verrill Lépicier

A seasoned and experienced Family Medicine practitioner, Dr. Lépicier closely follows medical research and updates to stay abreast of the latest developments. He believes in giving his patients the best fighting chance against diseases and infections. He prescribes modern and newly-released medicines after thoroughly studying the drug literature and gives drug companies and researchers valuable feedback on how his patients react to the medication. We're proud to have him as the team's voice of experience.

Shares
Skip to toolbar