Back pain

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Back pain is one of the most common medical problems, affecting 8 out of 10 people at some point during their lives. Back pain can range from a dull, constant ache to a sudden, sharp pain. Acute back pain comes on suddenly and usually lasts from a few days to a few weeks. Back pain is called chronic if it lasts for more than three months.


Why should I be aware of this?

  • Back pain is more common the older a person gets. A person may have his first back pain at the ae of 30 -40.
  • Back pain is more common in people who are not fit.
  • A diet high in calories and fat can make a person gain weight. Too much weight can stress the back and cause pain.
  • Some causes of back pain, such as ankylosing spondylitis, a form of arthritis that affects the spine, can have a genetic component.
  • Some types of arthritis and cancer can cause back pain.
  • Lifting, pushing, or pulling while twisting the spine, may cause back pain. If a person works at a desk all day and does not sit up straight, he may get back pain.
  • The body may not be able to get enough nutrients to the disks in the back if a person is smoking. Smoker’s cough may also cause back pain. People who smoke are slow to heal, so back pain may last longer.

All about back pain

Back pain is ranked second to headaches as the most frequent location of pain. Four out of five adults will experience at least one bout of back pain at some time in their lives. It is almost next to common colds in the list of common diseases.

Most back pain goes away on its own, though it may take awhile. Taking over-the-counter pain relievers and resting can help. However, staying in bed for more than 1 or 2 days can make it worse.

If the back pain is severe or doesn't improve after three days, call the health care provider. A person should also get medical attention if there is a back pain following an injury.

Anatomy of our Back

The back region of the body is made of interconnecting structures like bones, joints, muscles, ligaments and tendons. The spine of the back itself is made up of 24 small bones (seven cervical, twelve thoracic and five lumbar) and is the major support structure of back. These small bones are called vertebrae and they are further attached to sacrum and coccyx as we go from top to down. The sacrum attaches itself in front to the bones of the pelvis.


The most common site for pain is the lower back because it bears the brunt of our weight and hence is more prone to get affected. Structurally backache is a condition that usually is caused when one or more structures of the back gets affected and these includes muscles, cartilage, bones or spinal cord.

Psychosocial risk factors for backache includes stress, distress, anxiety, depression, cognitive dysfunction, pain threshold, job dissatisfaction, and mental stress at work.

Following persons are more prone to pain

Who is affected

Back ache is more prevalent between the age of 35 and 55. The most frequently cause of our back pain are:

  • Heavy physical work,
  • Frequent bending, twisting, lifting
  • pulling and pushing
  • Repetitive work
  • Static postures
  • Vibrations.

Nature of pain

Back pain may be sudden and sharp or it may be dull and if persistent for more than a week it might result in tension, soreness or stiffness of back muscles. Pain may aggravate with slightest of movement or even with coughing and sneezing. It may also be accompanied with numbness and tingling in the arms or legs.

The pain if limited to the back can be treated by simple remedies at home but if radiating to the lower abdomen, groin, leg or foot, needs medical attention.

What can I do?

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 worse slowly

Following preventive steps will help avoiding pain

  • Stop smoking.
  • Reduce body weight
  • Sit upright on your chair when doing sedentary work.
  • Avoid strenuous physical work, specially in old age.

Preventive routines

  • Reduce / Maintain your body weight.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Do aerobatic exercises without jolting or straing your back.

Can Back Pain Be Prevented?

The best things you can do to prevent back pain are:

  • Exercise often and keep your back muscles strong.
  • Maintain a healthy weight or lose weight if you weigh too much. To have strong bones, you need to get enough calcium and vitamin D every day.
  • Try to stand up straight and avoid heavy lifting when you can. If you do lift something heavy, bend your legs and keep your back straight.

When Should I See a Doctor for Pain

You should see a doctor if you have:

  • Numbness or tingling
  • Severe pain that does not improve with rest
  • Pain after a fall or an injury
  • Pain plus any of these problems:
    • Trouble urinating
    • Weakness
    • Numbness in your legs
    • Fever
    • Weight loss when not on a diet


  • Low back pain is the fifth most common reason for all physician visits in the US.
  • Back pain is the most frequent cause of activity limitation in people younger than 45 years old.
  • Most cases of back pain are mechanical or non-organic—meaning they are not caused by serious conditions, such as inflammatory arthritis, infection, fracture or cancer.
  • Approximately one quarter of U.S. adults reported having low back pain lasting at least one whole day in the past three months2, and 7.6% reported at least one episode of severe acute low back pain within a one-year period.
  • Low back pain is also very costly: approximately 5% of people with back pain disability account for 75 percent of the costs associated with low back pain.
  • One-half of all working Americans admit to having back pain symptoms each year.
  • Approximately 2% of the U.S. work force is compensated for back injuries each year.
  • Americans spend at least $50 Billion per year on back pain—and that’s just for the more easily identified costs.


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