Back pain or backache is pain felt in the back that may originate from muscles, nerves, bones, joints or other structures in the spine. Countless people in America experience ongoing back pain, and it represents one of the most common medical problems throughout the world. Back pain can be acute usually lasting from a few days to a few weeks, or chronic pain, lasting for more than three months.
Back pain can occur as a dull constant pain or a sudden sharp pain. Back pain may be confined to one area or may radiate to other areas such as the arm and hand, the upper back, or the lower back, and might radiate into the leg or foot. Other than pain you may have weakness, numbness or tingling in your arms or legs caused from damage to the spinal cord.
Athletes participating in sports such as skiing, basketball, football, ice skating, soccer, running, golf or tennis are at greater risk of developing back pain. During these sport activities, the spine needs to bear more stress, take up more pressure, undergo twisting and turning, as well as bodily impact. This may cause strain on the back that can result in back pain. Athletes are at high risk of back pain both from trauma and from overuse injuries, especially in sports requiring hyperextension.
Common causes of back pain include:
- Spinal Stenosis: This condition happens when the spinal column narrows, placing pressure on the nerves and spinal cord. This leads to numbness, pain, sensory loss and people who have it are vulnerable to experience severe conditions if not treated right away.
- Spondylosis: A degenerative condition that worsens as we age. It can affect any region of the spine, including: spine’s intervertebral discs (degenerative disc disease), and facet joints.
- Musculoligamentous strain: It is the most common sports injury caused by injury to the soft tissues around the spine
- Spondylolysis: It is most commonly found in athletes who participate in sports such as gymnastics, pole-vaulting, and football. All these activities require frequent hyperextension of the lumbar spine
- Spondylolisthesis: It is a condition of the spine which occurs when one vertebra is displaced or has slipped forward over the other below it
- Herniated nucleus pulposus: When injury occurs, the central core of the disc is pushed through a tear in the outer hard layer of the disc, causing a bulge and pressing on nearby nerves. If the herniated disc presses on a spinal nerve, it can cause back pain.
Other causes include growth-related problems such as scoliosis and Scheuermann's kyphosis.
Your physician will diagnose back pain by asking appropriate questions or by taking a history of your problem and examining your spine. A complete examination includes examination of the signs of unusual curves of the spine, a rib hump, a tilted pelvis, and tilting of the shoulders and a test of your sensations. Other diagnostic tests may be needed to confirm the diagnosis.
Treatment for back pain is usually non-surgical and includes:
- Anti-inflammatory medications, or NSAIDs are recommended to provide relief from pain.
- Cold packs, heat packs or both, applied to the back will help to ease much of the discomfort and relieve stiffness as well the pain.
- Sleeping with a pillow between the knees while lying on one side or placing a pillow under your knees when lying on your back, which may help relieve back pain.
- Exercises to strengthen your trunk and back muscles.
These measures help to relieve your back pain, however, in certain conditions the pain may not be resolved and may require additional interventions to more quickly lessen your pain.