An Introduction to helping your back

Back pain is one of the most frequent types of pain people experience and it’s rarely due to a single cause: in most cases it is the result of a series of events that cause changes in the spine.

Back pain affects almost everyone

Back pain, especially localised in the lumbar region, is a problem that affects almost the entire population at least once in a lifetime. It can be disabling, lasting a few days or it can be episodic and occur frequently. Strong and elastic muscles are the best form of prevention against low back pain.

What is the spine?

The spine is made up of bones (vertebrae), muscles, ligaments and intervertebral discs which all contribute to the body’s movement including sustaining body weight and protecting the spine. The spine also has four physiological curves that contribute, together with the intervertebral discs and other structures, to absorb the compressive forces of the spine.

Stress forces on the spine during flexion, extension and rotation movements that are not spread out evenly means the lumbar region has to bear most of the load. It is here that pain is most likely, which can either be low back pain, or lumbago.

The lumbar spine has five vertebrae, separated by an intervertebral disc, which, in good condition, acts as a buffer against stress, therefore protecting the spine. But if there is repeated traumas and overexertion, these discs may suffer erosion, where the inner part can break loose and interfere with nerve roots, and when pressed causes pain. This can then develop into a herniated disc, which is one of the main reasons for back pain – and might result in surgery.

The causes and duration of back pain

Various things can cause back pain: Poor posture, prolonged standing, certain work activities, repetitive actions that cause continuous micro traumas to the spine such as with athletic sport or just having a predisposition to develop abnormal curving more than others.

Back pain can also be classified into three categories according to the duration of symptoms: Acute back pain is when the pain disappears within six weeks; sub-acute if it persists for a period between six and 12 weeks, and chronic when the pain symptoms last more than 12 weeks.

The pain defined as ‘back pain’, is normally located between the costal margin and the inferior gluteal fold, but it can also radiate down the legs if the sciatic nerves are compressed.

What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a condition that affects your joints. The surfaces within your joints become damaged so the joint doesn’t move as smoothly as it should. Some of the cartilage covering the ends of the bones gradually roughens and becomes thin and the bone underneath thickens. Osteoarthritis can be a result of ageing or trauma and is among the leading causes of back pain.


Read How to help your back effectively
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