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 localized in the lumbar region, is a problem that almost everyone experiences at least once in their lifetime. It can be debilitating, lasting for several days, or else can be episodic, occurring more frequently. Strong and elastic muscles are the best means of preventing lower back pain.
What is the spine?
The spine is made up of bones (vertebrae), muscles, ligaments and intervertebral discs, all of which serve to perform bodily movements, sustain the body's weight, and protect the spine. The spine also has four physiological curves, which, together with the intervertebral discs and other structures, help to absorb the compressive forces of the spine.
Since the stress forces acting upon the spine during flexion, extension and rotation movements are not spread out evenly, the lumbar region often bears most of the load. It is here, in fact, that pain is most likely to occur, and is referred to as either lower back pain or lumbago.
The lumbar spine consists of five vertebrae, each separated by an intervertebral disc, which, when in good condition, acts as a buffer against stress, thus protecting the spine itself. But in cases of repeated traumas and overexertion, these discs can deteriorate, with the inner part sometimes breaking loose, interfering with the nerve roots, and causing pain when pressed. This can later develop into a herniated disc, which is one of the main reasons for back pain – and can sometimes require 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 sports activities), or simply having a greater predisposition to develop abnormal curving.
Back pain can also be classified into three categories based on the duration of symptoms: Acute back pain is when the pain disappears within six weeks; Sub-acute back pain is when the pain persists for 6 to 12 weeks; and Chronic back pain is when the pain last for more than 12 weeks.
Pain defined as ‘back pain’ is normally located between the costal margin and the inferior gluteal fold, but can also radiate down the legs if the sciatic nerves are compressed.
What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a condition that affects the joints. The surfaces within the joints become damaged to the point that 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, causing the bone underneath to thicken. Osteoarthritis can result from aging or trauma, and is among the leading causes of back pain.