Low Back Pain – a Constant Pain for the Human Race
Back pain is common, 8 out of 10 people suffer back pain at some time of their life. Majority of people have nothing seriously wrong with their body. The Costs-to-Society are huge, hence it’s a problem which has to be acted upon and rectified as early as possible.
What are the causes of low back pain?
In most cases, the cause is unclear. However poor posture, lack of exercise, muscle strains and sprains are the most common reasons for back pain. Some cases have specific causes like spondylosis (wear-and-tear), sciatica (disc prolapse), and stenosis (claudication pain).
When to consult a doctor?
You should consult a doctor immediately if you
- Have problems passing or controlling urine, lose control of bowels,
- Lose sensation around your genitalia or back,
- Develop weakness in your legs/ become unsteady on your feet,or
- Pain is very severe or persists for a long time and starts affecting your everyday activities.
What are the different risk factors for lower back pain?
Lower back pain may affect anyone, however, there are a few risk factors as discussed below:
Age: Low back pain begins in the 30s and 40s and becomes more common with aging.
Fitness: Poor physical fitness as noted with poor back and abdominal muscles increase the risk of back pain. Also, weekend warriors have increased risk of back injuries.
Diet: Unhealthy eating and inactive lifestyle cause obesity and increase the stress on the back.
Genetics: Certain disc diseases are hereditary.
Underlying diseases: Such as arthritis, osteoporosis, ankylosing spondylitis and cancer affecting the spine.
Occupational risk factors: Work involving heavy lifting, pushing or pulling as well as inactive desk jobs contribute to back pain.
Cigarette smoking: Smoking directly does not cause back pain, it is related to increased risk of low back pain and sciatica. Also, it affects healing and prolongs pain from back injuries and surgeries.
What are the diagnostic tests performed by the doctor?
Clinical examination by a doctor and investigations such as;
- Physical examination
- Blood tests
- Nerve studies
- Imaging tests – X- rays, CT scan and MRI scan can pinpoint the cause of back pain.
What are the different treatment options available?
Conservative Treatments include, bed rest, lumbar supports, electrical treatments e.g. (Laser therapy, interferential and therapeutic ultrasound), traction, TENS therapy and medications. The medications include pain relievers, muscle relaxants, topical pain relievers (ointments, spray) and injections.
Minimally invasive procedures like Radiofrequency ablation, endoscopic, and microdiscectomies have made procedures for treating back pain safe and effective. Day care procedures are the order of the day and very few patients end up requiring a prolonged stay or spinal fixation procedures.
Surgical procedures help to relieve pain related to structural abnormalities such as spine injuries, herniated disk and other problems affecting skeletal structure and muscles.
How do people recover from back pain?
Back pain has a tendency to become chronic when you start avoiding normal movement and activities, do not exercise and lose confidence which affects work, social and personal relationships, making you anxious and depressed and getting into a vicious cycle. Although 75 – 90% of back pains recover within in a few weeks, relapses are common, for those with persistent pain, only a 1/3 fully recover.
How to prevent back pain?
There are many ways you can avoid back pain –
- Regular exercise e.g. swimming, walking, Pilates, yoga, going to gym
- Checking your posture frequently
- Lifting objects correctly
- Watching your weight
- Having a positive mindset
Severe back pain is a silent, debilitating condition that can affect your activities at work and home. Following healthy lifestyle and corrective measures will keep symptoms in check and pain from progressing further. In case, you are having back pain that does not respond to medicines and conservative care, talk to a neurosurgeon at the earliest.
About Author –
MCH (NIMHANS), Advanced training in Stereotactic Radiosurgery (Brain Lab Academy - Germany). His expertise includes frameless stereotactic neurosurgery, minimally invasive spine surgery, spine stabilization, nerve radiofrequency ablation, cranial micro neurosurgery, cranio-spinal trauma, and endoscopic surgery.