Ow! My aching back! Most of us have stuttered these words at one time or another. Worldwide back pain affects 4 out of 5 people at some point in life. It is one of the top ten high burden diseases and is largely responsible for decreased quality of life and disability in young adults.  

Back Pain Symptoms

Back pain can range from a dull nagging ache to sudden debilitating pain. It can affect anyone at any age, but becomes more common as you grow older. People, who are overweight, lead a sedentary lifestyle, under extreme psychological stress and smokers have been found to be at a higher risk for back pain. Some of the common symptoms that occur with back pain include stiffness, trouble flexing your back, difficulty with range of motion, sharp shooting pain, pain radiating down the legs and numbness in the legs or groin.

Common Causes

Back pain that develops abruptly, often after some activity, is known as acute pain. If your pain lasts for more than three months, it is known as chronic pain. Most causes of acute back pain are related to the muscles and/or ligaments, widely known as strains. Back strains usually result from activities such as heavy lifting, overuse, abrupt movement and poor postures. Chronic pains may be associated with infections, trauma, spinal deformities and problems with the discs, nerves and bones.

Understanding the root cause of your back pain is key to preventing it from worsening or recurring. A better resolution of this problem can be achieved when you learn more and start identifying the factors that trigger your pain.

10 Tips to Beat Back Pain

Most episodes of back pain resolve within a few days on its own. Sadly, for some people it can return and can be the most frustrating and bothersome problem to manage. Here are few tips that you can try to minimise your discomfort and prevent the back pain from becoming a long-term issue.

  • Ice the area – Keep ice on the area for the first one or two days. Ice helps slow down inflammation that occurs after an injury. You may switch to heat after two days. Do not place heat or ice directly on your skin and do not keep it for more than 20 minutes at a time.
  • Be active  – Continue your normal activities such as walking and mild exercises, but don’t overdo it. Avoid sitting at a place for more than half an hour, get up and do some mild stretching.
  • Make your workstation ergonomic – Use chairs that have proper back support. Avoid hunching forward often and keep both your feet firmly planted on the floor.
  • Maintain good posture – Avoid stooping or bending over from your waist when lifting heavy objects. Lift with bent knees.
  • Wear footwear with low heels – High heels threaten good posture and put more pressure on the lower spine.
  • De-stress – Anxiety, stress and depression can worsen back pain. Engage in activities that keep you happy.
  • Get enough sleep – Inadequate sleep can aggravate your back pain. Sleep plays a major role in healing your body and mind. Sleep on a mattress that provides good back support. Keep a pillow between your knees if sleeping on your sides. If sleeping on your back, keep a pillow under your knees. These measures help maintain neutral spine position.
  • Quit smoking – Smokers are at a greater risk of developing bone problems that worsen back discomfort.
  • Exercise – Once your back pain has subsided, perform exercises to strengthen your back muscles.
  • Shed some weight – Being overweight can put excess pressure on your spine. Losing weight can help relieve your back pain.

There is often no single solution for back pain. You may need to explore and find out what works best for you, which often involves a process of trial and error.

It is advised that you consult a qualified doctor if your back pain does not subside within 72 hours. Depending on your type of back pain, your doctor may recommend blood tests and/or imaging studies to identify the root cause of your pain. Depending on your specific condition, treatment options can include oral medications, injections or surgery. You may also choose complementary therapies such as exercises, massage, yoga, biofeedback, acupuncture, physiotherapy and chiropractic treatments that may offer some relief.