13 Jan 2021

Guide to Understanding Back Pains

Bryan Se To

Back pains are a common condition that most adults have suffered from before. Chances are, you probably have experienced it before too. A study conducted showed that nearly 9 in 10 people have had experiences with back pain before.

Although the majority of adults sufer from back pains, a surprising amount of them do not seek the necessary treatments. Some even self-diagnose their conditions despite having little knowledge.

Causes

Sudden back strains from

  • Slips and falls
  • Sports injuries

Back strains over time which can occur from:

  • Lifting heavy objects
  • Having the wrong posture
  • Constantly sitting for long periods of time

Slipped Disc

One of the most common causes of back pain is slip discs. As you age, the discs which help to cushion the spine during movement wear out and become less effective. This leads to the exterior of the discs to tear and cause pain. There are varying degrees of tears, with small tears healing quicker than larger tears which may cause the disc to slip out of position. This may lead to the compression of nerves around the spine, causing pain and discomfort. However, it is not a condition that is specific to older people. Anyone may have a slipped disc without realising so as they may not experience the symptoms.

Symptoms of slip disc may include:

  • Pain
  • Weakness and numbness
  • Feelings of 'pins and needles'
  • Experiencing a sensation of electric currents shooting from your foot to your back

Risk factors for developing slip disc include:

  • Wear and tear from ageing or physical activity
  • Family history
  • Poor posture especially when sitting
  • Smoking which restricts the discs from getting essential nutrients
  • Weight

Back pains usually do not last more than a few days, with 90% of people suffering from back pains recovering in about six weeks since the start of the pain. However, if you are experiencing pain that exceeds this period of time, it would be wise to seek professional help due to potential complications arising from the back injury.

Potential Complications

Nerve Compression

The tissues surrounding the pinched nerve apply too much pressure on the nerve, which results in patients experiencing a tingling sensation, weakness or numbness and sometimes pain.

Poor Alignment of the Spine

Having poor posture can result in the misalignment of the spine, leading to its wear and tear. Aside from experiencing chronic pain, other long-term effects include reduced range of motion and respiratory issues.

Symptoms of Lower Back Pain

Below are some symptoms commonly associated with lower back pains:

  • Loss of control of bowel or bladder movements
  • Dull and aching pain
  • Pain experienced travels to the buttocks, legs and feet
  • Weakness in legs which causes issues during movement
  • Bending your back in different directions makes the pain worse
  • Diagnosing Back Pains

You would be asked several questions regarding your medical history before the practitioner proceeds with the physical examination. Such questions may include:

  • Information regarding current symptoms
  • Lifestyle
  • Usual posture adopted
  • Typical sleeping habits
  • Recent history of injuries

After getting the relevant information about you, the practitioner would proceed to conduct a physical examination of you which may include:

  • Locating any abnormalities along your lower back
  • Requiring you to move your back into different positions
  • Checking the reflexes and strength of your leg

How Do I Prevent Back Pains?

There are several measures that can be taken to prevent back pains.

  • Instead of slouching, adopt a good posture when sitting or standing
  • Use your legs instead of your back when lifting objects
  • Repetitive tasks should be reduced
  • Engage in physical exercise to strengthen your back
  • Watch your weight

How Do I Prevent Back Pains?

Physiotherapy

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When suffering from acute back pains, physiotherapists will use a combination of techniques such as heat and manual treatments to bring down the pain. After which, the physiotherapists would introduce exercises for you to perform regularly. These exercises would help you to further bring down the level of back pains and prevent future back pains.

Medication

There are a variety of medication options that help relieve back pains such as muscle relaxants and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Taking muscle relaxants help to reduce muscle spasms while taking NSAIDs are often used for pain relief. Other forms of medication can include ice or heating pads which also help to reduce pains.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

A TCM practitioner may use several methods to treat back pains. This may include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Cupping
  • Herbal formulas
  • Tui Na (massage)

Chiropractors

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If your back pains are caused by the misalignment of the spine, chiropractors are the practitioners you want to visit. Equipped with spinal manipulation and adjustment skills, they can help realign your spine to ease back stress and pains caused by adopting a poor posture over long periods of time.

Sports Massage

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Having tense back muscles can lead to back aches and stiffness. Sports massage therapists can help your tense muscles to relax and improve blood flow around your body. Not only would that help you get back your range of motion, but it has also been shown to help increase endorphin levels which make you feel good.

Surgery

Surgery is mostly recommended as a last resort when other forms of treatment have failed. Only severe conditions such as spinal joint dislocation or severe spinal column fractures require surgery to be done immediately.

Nerve Stimulators

Spinal cord stimulators are a type of nerve stimulators that can be used to treat back pains even after surgeries do not work. The device is typically used with other forms of treatment such as physiotherapy and exercise. When the device is placed in patients, it allows patients to feel a slight tingling sensation instead of typical pains.

How can Calibrate help?

With our verified practitioners such as Physiotherapists, Chiropractors, Sports Massage Therapists, TCM and more, Calibrate seeks to help you better understand your treatment options. You may schedule a 1-1 consultation with us here to be directed to the most suitable expert for your unique conditions. Or, find a back pain specialist near you.