Back Pain

Back pain is a common problem that affects people of all ages. Those who suffer from it know it can be both unpleasant and debilitating. Causes of back pain can include:

  • Accidents
  • Extreme physical exertion
  • Certain medical disorders
  • Strain
  • Structural problems
  • Poor posture

While most people may ignore occasional bouts of back pain, it is advisable to visit a medical professional when it becomes a regular occurrence or when experiencing numbness or tingling.

How Does Your Back Work?

The spine, also known as the backbone or spinal column, is one of the strongest structures of the body, providing us with a great degree of flexibility and strength. It comprises of 24 bones called vertebrae, stacked one on top of the other. These bones are held together by discs, a network of strong ligaments, and muscles. Additionally, the tailbone at the back's base is composed of fused together bones without discs.

Tiny joints called facets stem from either side across the length of the spine. The spinal cord connects the brain via the base of the skull and to the rest of the body via nerves (or nerve roots) that run between the spine's bones. The vertebrae protect this cord. As we age, the spine structures such as the joints, discs, and ligaments age too. Therefore, it is normal for your back to stiffen as you age.

What are the Common Causes and Risk Factors of Back Pain?

Back pain can stem from physical strain or injury, structural problems in the spine, improper movement and posture, and other less common causes.


The most common causes of back pain are strain and injury:

  • Strained muscles or ligaments
  • A muscle spasm
  • Muscle tension
  • Injuries, fractures, or falls
  • Damaged disks

The following activities can cause strains or spasms:

  • Lifting something incorrectly 
  • Lifting something too heavy 
  • Making a sudden and awkward movement

Structural Problems

Back pain can stem from various causes, including:


  • Strained muscles or ligaments
  • A muscle spasm
  • Muscle tension
  • Injuries, fractures, or falls
  • Damaged disks
  • Activities that can cause strains or spasms:
  • Lifting something incorrectly
  • Lifting something too heavy
  • Making a sudden and awkward movement

Structural Problems:

  • Ruptured discs
  • Bulging discs
  • Osteoporosis
  • Sciatica
  • Abnormal spine curvature

Movement and Posture:

  • Twisting
  • Coughing or sneezing
  • Muscle tension
  • Over-stretching
  • Bending awkwardly or for long periods
  • Pushing, pulling, lifting, or carrying something
  • Standing or sitting for long periods
  • Straining the neck forward, such as when driving or using a computer
  • Driving at length without taking a break, even when not hunched
  • Sleeping on a mattress that does not support the body and keep the spine straight
  • Adopting a slumped seating position when using a computer

Other Causes:

  • Cauda Equina Syndrome
  • Spinal Cancer
  • Spinal Infection
  • Kidney disorders
  • Arthritis

It's also worth noting that certain factors can increase the risk of experiencing back pain, such as:

  • Occupational activities
  • Pregnancy
  • A sedentary lifestyle
  • Poor physical fitness
  • Older age
  • Obesity and excess weight
  • Smoking
  • Strenuous physical exercise or work, especially if done incorrectly
  • Genetic factors
  • Medical conditions such as arthritis and cancer

What are the Symptoms of Back Pain?

Common symptoms of back pain include:

  • Numbness
  • Weakness
  • Cramping
  • Pain in the back, hands, or legs

It's important to note that while most back pain goes away on its own, certain symptoms may indicate a more serious condition and should be evaluated by a medical professional. These include:

  • Weight loss
  • Fever
  • Inflammation or swelling on the back
  • Persistent back pain that does not improve with rest
  • Pain that reaches below the knees
  • A recent injury, blow, or trauma to the back
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Fecal incontinence, or loss of control over bowel movements
  • Numbness around the genitals
  • Numbness around the anus
  • Numbness around the buttocks

When to See a Doctor?

If you have any numbness or tingling, any of the aforementioned alarming symptoms, or are experiencing:

  • Pain that does not improve with rest
  • Pain after an injury or fall
  • Pain with numbness in the legs
  • Pain with weakness
  • Pain with fever
  • Pain with unexplained weight loss

It is recommended to seek medical attention as soon as possible. These symptoms may indicate a more serious condition that requires prompt evaluation and treatment. A doctor can perform a physical examination, and if necessary, order imaging studies and other tests to determine the cause of the pain and develop an appropriate treatment plan. They can also rule out serious conditions that may require immediate medical attention.

How to Prevent Back Pain?

A strict workout and diet regimen can help prevent back pain. It is important to develop habits of correct movement and posture to ensure it doesn't become a long-term problem. Additionally, there are alternative therapies that can be used as preventive measures such as:

  • Shiatsu: A style of massage that uses finger pressure along the body's energy pathways.
  • Acupuncture: An ancient Chinese practice that involves placing small needles into certain body sites.
  • Yoga: Yoga positions, motions, and breathing techniques can aid in the strengthening of back muscles and help improve posture. It is important to consult a healthcare expert before beginning any workout regimen.
  • Diet: Ensure getting enough Calcium and Vitamin D in your diet, as they are essential for bone health. A healthy diet also aids in weight management.
  • Standing posture: When standing, make sure your pelvis is in a neutral posture. Stand tall with your head front, your back straight, and your weight properly distributed on your feet.
  • Sitting posture: A decent working seat should have good back support, armrests, and a swivel base. When sitting, try to maintain your knees and hips level and your feet flat on the floor unless you're using a footstool.

It's important to note that these activities and remedies are for those who want to prevent back pain. Those already experiencing alarming symptoms should visit a doctor right away.

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