Feb 26, 2013

Posted by in Family Practice, General, Internal Medicine, Occupational Health, Pain Management, Rehabiltiation | 0 Comments

Oh…My Aching Back

Woman with back painOld people are my parent’s age. That’s what I thought when I was a teenager.

Now that I’m the age that my parents were when I was a teenager, I still think that. Old people are my parent’s age. I am not old.

Sometimes parts of my body pop in concerning ways when I stand up after sitting for a while. I have friends who have “thrown out their back,” which I (until recently) considered to be something that only happened to old people. Again, I am not old and neither are my friends who are the same age as me. Old people are my parent’s age.

Back pain can range from a dull, constant ache to a sudden, sharp pain that makes it hard to move. It can start quickly if you fall or lift something too heavy, or it can get worsen slowly.

I recently interviewed a patient who went through physical therapy for his back pain. His therapist, Gary Elises, shared some additional information on back pain with me:

Anyone can have back pain, but some things that increase your risk are:

  • Getting older. Back pain is more common the older you get. You may first have back pain when you are 30 to 40 years old.
  • Poor physical fitness. Back pain is more common in people who are not fit.
  • Being overweight. Too much weight can stress the back and cause pain.
  • Inherited diseases or conditions. Some kinds of back pain, such as disc disease, can be inherited.
  • Other diseases. Some types of arthritis and cancer can cause back pain.
  • Your job. If you have to lift, push or pull while twisting your spine, you may get back pain. If you work at a desk all day and do not sit up straight, you may also get back pain.
  • Smoking. Your body may not be able to get enough nutrients to the discs in your back if you smoke. Smoker’s cough may also cause back pain. People who smoke are slow to heal, so back pain may last longer.

Low Back Pain

Low back pain is one of the more common types of back pain. It can affect the back anywhere below the ribs and could radiate down the legs. The lower back bears most of the body’s weight. Because of this, it is easily injured when a person lifts, reaches or twists.

Low back pain is often caused by overuse, strain or injury. For instance, people often hurt their backs playing sports or working in the yard, being jolted in a car accident or lifting something too heavy. Aging plays a part too as bones and muscles tend to lose strength. In some people, low back pain is the result of arthritis, broken vertebrae caused by bone loss or illness.

Depending on the cause, low back pain can cause a range of symptoms:

  • Be dull, burning or sharp.
  • Be felt at a single point or over a broad area.
  • Come on gradually or suddenly.
  • Occur with muscle spasms or stiffness.
  • Cause leg symptoms, such as pain, numbness or tingling, often extending below the knee.

Prevention

To help keep your back healthy and avoid further pain:

  • Practice good posture when you sit, stand and walk.
  • Get regular, low-impact exercise. Walk, swim or ride a stationary bike. Stretch before you exercise.
  • Wear low-heeled shoes with good support.
  • Sleep on your side. A medium-firm mattress may put the least stress on your back.
  • Watch your weight. Being too heavy, especially around your waist, puts extra stress on your back.
  • Don’t try to lift things that are too heavy for you. When you must lift, bend your knees and keep your back straight, keep the object you are lifting close to your belly button, and avoid lifting and twisting at the same time.

Well, for me, snap – crackle – pop is no longer about cereal. Unfortunately, it’s now more about the sounds my body makes!

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