Back pain can affect people of all ages; it may be caused due to a variety of reasons such as injury, improper sitting or sleeping posture, intense physical activity or medical conditions. The human back is composed of multiple complex structures of muscle, tendons, ligament, disc and bones. As people grow older the chances of them developing back pain increases since the human back is the most sensitive part affected by ageing and it is easy to develop degenerative disk disease.
The spine is the human body’s main structural support and it is responsible to bear and balance a lot of other parts of the body. It is necessary for it to remain flexible enough for movement and stable enough for a person to stand upright. The segments of the spine are cushioned with cartilage-like pads called disk and these disks start degenerating due to wear and tear caused by a person’s occupation health condition, age etc.
Any problem in these components can lead to back pain although in some cases it becomes hard to determine the cause of back pain most of these problems are usually believed to be caused due to strain on the back, medical conditions, occupation, poor posture among other reasons.
Back pain problems are classified into two types:
Acute Back Pain
These are generally caused due to some sort of strenuous activity, injury or being in a bad posture for a long time. The time duration this type of back pain lasts for is temporary and may extend up to 6 weeks. This type of aliment is much easier to diagnose and provide treatment.
Chronic Back Pain
This type of back pain is an ongoing problem and last for a longer duration it may last for over 3 months or continue for a lifetime. It is more difficult to diagnose and provide treatment as in some cases the cause for pain may be due to an incurable disease such as cancer and requires long term pain relief treatment.
Most acute back pains get better with a few weeks of treatment at home, however as every person is different the condition may last longer and the pain may become more persistent since back pain is a complex condition.
The following are a few of the common treatment procedures your physician may suggest for back pain problems:
Over-the-Counter (OTC) Pain Relievers
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or naproxen sodium can help relieve acute back pain problems. The medications will be prescribed by your physician but it is necessary to avoid overdosage as it can cause serious side-effects.
In cases where OTC drugs are ineffective, the physician might prescribe muscle relaxants to ease the pain. These medications can cause mild dizziness and induce sleep.
The prescription and medication regime is closely monitored by the physician and medicines containing opioids such as oxycodone or hydrocodone are used for treatment. This type of treatment is unsuitable for a longer duration thus it lasts for at most a week.
Topical Pain Relievers
These are external medications and are applied directly over the skin at the site of pain. These include oils, creams, gels, sprays, salves and ointments.
Low doses of anti-depressants such as amitriptyline are sometimes prescribed for patients afflicted with certain types of chronic back pain.
In cases when oral or topical medication fail to relive the pain the physician may inject an anti-inflammatory medication such as cortisone into the space around the spinal cord to help inflammation around nerve roots and this effect can last up to a few months.
EXERCISE & THERAPY
People with a good diet and fitness regime are less prone to be afflicted with back pain unless they accidentally injure themselves. People with poor health maintenance or diet are more prone to develop diseases related to the back. Thus, physicians often recommend patients to exercise regularly and maintain a healthy diet.
In certain cases, they may also recommend a physiotherapist who can help relieve back pain by using a variety of treatments such as massage, ultrasound, heat, electrical stimulation and muscle-release techniques to ease back muscles and soften tissues.
Surgery is usually the last option available and mostly recommended for patients with structural problems such as those afflicted with:
- Degenerating spinal condition due to spinal stenosis or narrowing of the spine.
- Bone spurs usually caused due to arthritis and putting pressure on the spinal cord.
- Ruptured or bulging disks.
- Weakened or dysfunction of limbs caused due to nerves in the spine.
- Spinal infection.
- Injury to spine and related nerves due to an accident.
- Tumour in spinal cord etc.
Some of the surgical procedures include:
Two vertebrae are splinted together with a bone graft between them using metal plates, screws or cages.
An artificial disk is inserted to replace as a cushion between two vertebrae
Removing a portion of the disk if it happens to irritate or press against a nerve on the spine.
Partial removal of vertebra
Removing a minor section of the vertebra in cases where it is pressing against the spinal cord or nerves
Surgery is a joint decision between you and your physician and often an option to be avoided if possible as it can cause more problems. However, if back pain persists for a few days without any improvement it is recommended you visit the physician.