Around 10% of people are affected by low back pain. Worldwide, lower back pain causes more disability than 300 other conditions. Based on a recent study, low back pain causes a third of work-related disability. Higher levels of exercise, less access to health insurance, and shorter height are supposed to contribute to low rates of back pain. However, many working people develop persistent back pain.
Where does back pain most likely occur?
The lower (lumbar) back region has more back pain. The vertebrae are separated by cushioning gel-filled discs, which support much of the body’s weight. The spaces between each irregular shaped bone serves as shock absorbers through the spinal column. Bands of tissues (ligaments) hold each bone in place. The tendons attach the muscles to the spinal column.
What causes back pain?
Most back pain is mechanical in nature. However, wear-and-tear, as well as aging can affect the spine. Common causes of back pain include:
● Degenerative disc disease – This occurs when the discs lose integrity, tear, and slip out of place.
● Herniated disc – This is where a disc inner material bulges through the tough outer layers.
● Radiculopathy – This involves compression, inflammation, and spinal injury.
● Sciatica – This type of radiculopathy is caused by compression of the large nerve that runs down the buttocks to the back of the leg.
● Spondylolisthesis – When a vertebra slips forward, it pinches on a nerve as it exits the spinal column. This leads to pain.
● Spinal stenosis – Narrowing of the spinal column puts pressure on the spinal cord and nerves, which causes numbness and pain, and this worsens with walking over time.
What are the risk factors for back pain?
Certain risk factors can increase a person’s chances for back pain. These include:
● Age – Most back pain occurs between ages 30 and 50 years of age. When people grow older, loss of bone strength from osteoporosis and other degenerative problems can lead to fractures.
● Weight gain – Being obese or overweight can put much stress on the back.
● Genetics – Ankylosing spondylitis and other conditions are linked to genes.
● Occupation – Certain jobs require twisting, lifting, pushing, pulling, and vibrating the spine, which causes back pain and injury.
How is back pain treated?
Back pain is treated using conservative treatment and interventional pain management. Some common back pain treatment options are:
● Medications – Commonly prescribed agents include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, analgesics, anticonvulsants, and antidepressants.
● Spinal manipulation – Chiropractic care involves certain stimulating spinal maneuvers and manipulation, which provides short-term benefits for low back pain.
● Acupuncture – This involves inserting needles in pressure points along the body, which are called meridians. This is thought to restore correct energy to the body.
● Nerve blocks – This approach involves injecting an anesthetic or neurolytic agent on a nerve to stop pain signal transmission.
● Epidural steroid injection – This is short-term treatment for pain. The doctor injects a steroid agent into the epidural space, which decreases inflammation. An anesthetic is often added to the injection when necessary.
● Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) – With failed back surgery syndrome, and other chronic spine conditions, a TENS unit can be used. This device generates electrical impulses that block pain signals from peripheral nerves. TENS elevates levels of endorphins, which are natural pain-numbing chemicals.