Back pain is a very common complaint. According to the Mayo Clinic, approximately 80% of all Americans will have low back pain at least once in their lives. Back pain is a common reason for absence from work, or visiting the doctor’s.
According to the NHS (National Health Service), UK, back pain is the largest cause of work-related absence in the United Kingdom. Although back pain may be painful and uncomfortable, it is not usually serious.
Even though back pain can affect people of any age, it is significantly more common among adults aged between 35 and 55 years.
Experts say that back pain is associated with the way our bones, muscles and ligaments in our backs work together.
Pain in the lower back may be linked to the bony lumbar spine, discs between the vertebrae, ligaments around the spine and discs, spinal cord and nerves, lower back muscles, abdomen and pelvic internal organs, and the skin around the lumbar area. Pain in the upper back may be due to disorders of the aorta, tumors in the chest, and spine inflammation.
What are the risk factors for back pain?
A risk factor is something which increases the likelihood of developing a condition or disease. For example, obesitysignificantly raises the risk of developing diabetes type 2. Therefore, obesity is a risk factor for diabetes type 2. The following factors are linked to a higher risk of developing low back pain:
- A mentally stressful job
- Pregnancy – pregnant women are much more likely to get back pain
- A sedentary lifestyle
- Age – older adults are more susceptible than young adults or children
- Gender – back pain is more common among females than males
- Strenuous physical exercise (especially if not done properly)
- Strenuous physical work.
What are the signs and symptoms of back pain?
A symptom is something the patient feels and reports, while a sign is something other people, such as the doctor detect. For example, pain may be a symptom while a rash may be a sign.
The main symptom of back pain is, as the name suggests, an ache or pain anywhere on the back, and sometimes all the way down to the buttocks and legs. In most cases signs and symptoms clear up on their own within a short period.
If any of the following signs or symptoms accompanies a back pain your should see your doctor:
- Weight loss
- Elevated body temperature (fever)
- Inflammation (swelling) on the back
- Persistent back pain – lying down or resting does not help
- Pain down the legs
- Pain reaches below the knees
- A recent injury, blow or trauma to your back
- Urinary incontinence – you pee unintentionally (even small amounts)
- Difficulty urinating – passing urine is hard
- Fecal incontinence – you lose your bowel control (you poo unintentionally)
- Numbness around the genitals
- Numbness around the anus
- Numbness around the buttocks.
According to the National Health Service (NHS), UK, the following groups of people should seek medical advice if they experience back pain:
- People aged less than 20 and more than 55 years
- Patients who have been taking steroids for a few months
- Drug abusers
- Patients with cancer
- Patients who have had cancer
- Patients with low immune systems.
What are the causes of back pain?
The human back is composed of a complex structure of muscles, ligaments, tendons, disks and bones – the segments of our spine are cushioned with cartilage-like pads. Problems with any of these components can lead to back pain. In some cases of back pain, its cause is never found.