At some point in your life, you will probably experience some sort of back pain. Maybe you’ll lift something heavy or fall on the sidewalk, or even develop a condition that puts a strain on your back. No matter what the cause is, back pain is serious and may lead to surgery if not tended to properly. If you’ve suffered from back pain in the past or want to know how to prevent back pain in the future, this guide is for you.
Symptoms Of Back Pain
The symptoms of back pain will vary from person to person, depending on what cause of pain is. The general symptoms that are commonly experienced are:
- Sharp pains
- Inability to stand up straight
- Pain that radiates down through the legs
- Aching muscles
- Difficulty moving your back or having a limited range of motion
There are two types of back pain: chronic and acute. Chronic back pain is pain that is constant or goes away briefly and reoccurs. The common causes of chronic back pain are:
- Past injuries
- Past surgery
- Overuse from physical activity
- Conditions such as fibromyalgia and arthritis
- Curvature of the spine
- Piriformis syndrome
Acute back pain is pain that occurs suddenly and lasts for a few days or weeks. The most common cause of acute back pain is a pulled muscle or ligament but other causes include:
- A ruptured or herniated disk
- Muscle spasms
- Compression fractures from osteoporosis
- Improper lifting
- A sudden movement
Infections and cancer of the spine as well as cauda equina syndrome are also sources of back pain.
If your back pain is too much too handle and the symptoms seem to be getting worse, you should see a doctor right away. To confirm the source of the pain, your doctor will perform a physical exam that will most likely include testing your reflexes and examining your back’s range of motion. Your doctor may also perform some tests, such as the following:
- MRIs or CT scans
- Blood and urine tests
- A bone scan
How To Care For Your Back
Your doctor will coach you on the best way to treat your back, depending on what’s causing your pain and if your pain is acute or chronic. If your back pain is chronic, you may need to visit a physical therapist, who can teach you how to strengthen the muscles in your back, as well as a massage therapist or an acupuncturist. Both of these specialists can help relieve you of some of the symptoms as well as help you to manage the pain. Wearing a back brace during the day, especially while at work, can give your back some support and putting hot and cold packs on your back at night can help the muscles and ligaments relax
If your back pain is acute, try to relax and not do anything physically strenuous for a few days. Apply hot and cold packs to your back. Take ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Sleep on your side in a fetal position and place a pillow between your legs to take any pressure off of your back. If your back starts to feel better after a few days, gradually start your daily routine again, doing small amounts of physical activity to rebuild your strength.
If the pain is too severe, you may need to have a cortisone injection, which will reduce the inflammation of the nerves. This treatment is only temporary, however, so an alternative treatment would be surgery to partially remove a damaged disk or vertebra or to fuse two vertebrae together eliminate the pain.
How To Prevent Back Pain
Dealing with back pain can be tough and treatments are no walk in the park. To keep your back strong and in good shape, follow these lifestyle tips:
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Consistently exercise and do exercises that will build your back’s strength and flexibility.
- When you stand, don’t put all of the pressure on your back. Shift your weight from foot to foot and try to prop your foot up on something low to keep the pressure off.
- Make sure the chairs at home and at work are comfortable for your back. If they don’t offer good lower back support, use a back pillow or roll up a towel or small blanket and place it behind your lower back for support.
- If your job requires you to lift heavy things, make sure you lift with your legs, not your back. Bend at the knees, keep your back straight and only move up and down. Don’t twist yourself or do any jerky movements. If what you’re lifting is too heavy, get someone to help you.
When your back starts to hurt, whether it be from working, exercising or from a condition, don’t be afraid to take a short break to relax and rest your back . Listening to your body’s needs is the best way to prevent pain and injury.