If you’re between the age of 35 and 55, it is very likely that you’ve suffered from severe back pain more than once. Back pain is only next to headaches as one of the most common conditions to affect people. 80% of adults experience back pain at some point in their lives. It is almost as prevalent as the common cold.
Indeed, back pain is also one of the most common reasons for people to seek disability benefits from governments and insurance companies. But since back pain is hard to quantify, not everybody who makes a claim succeeds in getting these benefits.
Back pain happens mostly in the lower back area because it bears the brunt of most of our weight. From the structural point of view, back pain is caused when the structures of the back such as muscles, cartilage, bones, or spinal cords get affected.
Back Pain Causes
Back pain may be caused by heavy physical work; repetitive work; frequent bending, lifting, pulling, twisting, pushing; static postures and vibrations. Back pain is also caused by psychological factors such as stress, anxiety, depression, job dissatisfaction, cognitive dysfunction and so on. At its worst, the pain can aggravate with coughing and sneezing or even with minimum movement. Numbness and a tingling sensation in arms and legs can be felt as well.
Back Pain Symptoms and What They Mean
As said earlier, most people experience back pain at some point in their lives. The back pain symptoms depend on the part of the back affected by the pain. Let’s look at the common back pain symptoms.
Lower Back Pain Symptoms
Lower back pain is the most common type of back pain as the lower back carries much of the body’s weight. The pain is concentrated in the lower back, but can also affect the front, sides and back of the legs. It develops over many years and is mainly caused due to bad posture. The pain can appear all of a sudden, perhaps because of twisting or heavy lifting and can become unbearable. The pain is at its worst at night and appears when one makes sudden body movements.
Upper or Middle Back Pain Symptoms
Upper or middle back pain affects the thoracic spine, which extends from the base of the neck to the bottom of the rib cage. The pain can appear as burning, sharp or dull and when it occurs the muscles may feel stiff or tight. Upper back pain can be caused by trapped or injured nerves. The upper back pain also affects the arms, legs and chest.
Sciatica is characterized by pain in the lower back, which extends to the buttocks and legs.
Slipped disc is caused due to the rupturing of the spine which allows the gel inside the discs to leak out and irritate the sciatic nerve, which causes unbearable pain that extends from the lower back to the legs.
Ankylosing spondylitis causes severe back pain symptoms which lead to a lot of pain in the lower back, the sacroiliac joint (which connects the pelvis to the spine), buttocks and the neck.
How is Back Pain Treated
There are several simple remedies for back pain that can be tried at home. But if the pain is really quite severe, it should be treated by a medical professional. Back strain or back sprain can be treated with cold compresses, anti-inflammatory medications and a plenty of rest. Physical therapy is advocated as well. Other treatments include ultrasound therapy and narcotic pain medications. Surgery is used as a last resort when the pain is really quite unbearable.