Back Pain is a common condition effecting four out of five people at some point in their life. Lower back pain is one of the more common conditions treated by osteopaths. Many causes of back pain can be down to lifestyle or occupational factors such as:
- computer work
- frequent reaching, lifting or twisting
In most cases, lower back pain is caused by straining of the joints, ligaments or muscles in the back. The good news is that our Enfield Osteopaths at GD Osteopathy & Sports Massage are experts, they can help you on the road to recovery. Osteopathy and sports massage are safe and effective. You can trust the Enfield back pain specialists to help you, get back to being you.
The back is a complex structure, visiting an expert who has the right experience and knowledge is key. Back pain specialist perform the correct examinations, which provides an accurate diagnosis. Effective treatment can then follow, helping you to get back on your feet.. The back is made up of:
- 24 vertebrae that support the weight of your body.
- 23 intervertebral shock absorbing discs.
- 100s of ligaments that hold the bones together.
- 100’s of muscles and tendons to create movement.
- spinal cord.
- 62 spinal nerves that send and receive signals between the brain and body.
Back pain can come on suddenly with an injury, or gradually over time due to repetitive strain. Occasionally there is no apparent reason for the onset. Timely assessment by a specialists can prevent chronic pain. Prompt treatment reduces the negative impact that low back pain can have on work and recreational activities.
Causes of low back pain
Lower back pain is very common and one of the main reasons for sickness absence in the United Kingdom. Acute lower back pain is defined as moderate to severe pain that is present for 6 weeks or less. In most cases the pain lasts between three days to six weeks.
The complex anatomical structureS of the low back, means that even a small injury can result in a lot of pain. Back pain is usually a symptom of fatigue or damage to the ligaments, muscles, nerves or discs. Pain may be localised to the back or may refer to the buttocks and leg. Injury of these structures is often classified as “non-specific mechanical back pain“. Common causes include:
- excessive mechanical stress
- postural fatigue
- repetitive strain
- age related wear
Acute back paincan also be as a result of less common, but more serious secondary causes. Including metabolic diseases, inflammatory rheumatic disorders and referred pain from other areas of the body. Another reason why an early and accurate diagnosis is important. An early visit to an osteopath or other allied health professional is essential to ensure a full medical examination and accurate diagnosis is given.
Back pain is classed as chronic if it has been present for more than three months. Chronic lower back pain can result if certain structures in the back experience:
- repetitive stresses
The character of pain varies greatly, patients may report burning pain, deep aches, stabbing or shooting sensations. Pain can be localised to a specific place or diffuse. Some people report mild nagging discomfort, others have severe debilitating pain.
Sometimes the cause of pain is unknown or can’t be identified. This happens because the injury or condition that originally triggered the pain, can be fully healed, yet the pain may continue. There are several theories to explain why chronic pain becomes persistent in some people. The most commonly used explanation is due to a process called central sensitisation.
In this process the nerve pathways that carry signals from the body, back to the spinal-cord become overly sensitised. This resulting effect means that any stimulation of these pathways, results in perceived pain. Even non-painful stimulus, such as light touch or pressure can trigger a pain response. The pain felt by the patient is real, and occasionally worse then that experienced by the original injury.
Early intervention with lower back pain is essential. Studies show that the longer an individual remains inactive and off work, the harder it is for them to return. Manual therapy such as osteopathy is effective at reducing pain, increasing mobility and speeding up recovery.
It is repeatedly reported that bed rest does not promote recovery from mechanical low back pain. Sitting for long periods of time is not recommended and can aggravate symptoms. It’s important that you continue with normal activities wherever possible, including return to work.
Pain killers (e.g. paracetamol) and anti inflammatory drugs (e.g. ibuprofen) are shown to help with symptomatic relief, consult the GP before taking them. Muscle relaxant may be prescribed but only for a few days, once again consult your GP before taking them. Exercises are recommended to increase flexibility and strengthen the muscles (see below).
5 top tips to help prevent back pain
- Exercise, combine aerobic exercise (swimming or walking), with strengthening exercises to maintain the core.
- Use good lifting technique i.e. keep your back straight and lift any heavy items with your legs.
- Maintain a healthy weight, being overweight places added stress on the lower back.
- Stop smoking, nicotine causes the spine to age quicker.
- Monitor your posture, bad posture puts added stress on your spine.
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Back pain is common and can affect anyone at any time in their lives. Various structures of the back can be injured, this can result in either temporary or prolonged pain. The key points to remember are to; quickly have the back assessed, keep as active as possible (within comfort limits) and avoid activities which aggravate the pain.