It may strike suddenly or creep up slowly, but when it arrives it will threaten your mobility, your active lifestyle, your enjoyment of simple exercises, and even your time at work. No, it probably won’t kill you. Although, some people may feel like they’re close to dying. It is the misery of back pain. However, with the right guidance, education, and proper back support, you need not wither away in agony. You can reclaim your life and heal faster. It just takes understanding what’s going on with your back, why it’s happening, how you can best support it during this time, and hope that “this too shall pass.” But first a few facts about this troublesome problem.
Young or old, back pain is a common issue that affects millions of Americans every year. Although this problem is usually associated with older folks, young people may have back pain too, especially from sports-related injuries. In fact, back problems are one of the leading causes of disability in the world and the reason for millions of missed work days annually. If that wasn’t enough, if you haven’t experienced any back pain in your life yet, there’s a good chance you will. Professionals estimate that approximately “80% of the population will experience a back problem at some time in their lives.” However, the good news is that most back pain issues are not due to disease or health problems. Most of the problems are mechanical, which means with proper care, you can ease symptoms and bounce back to your active self eventually.
Anatomy of the back
The back contains the spine, which consists of 33 bones and discs. The bones are referred to as vertebrae and can be classified into three groups:
- Cervical vertebrae
- Thoracic vertebrae
- Lumbar vertebrae
At the base of the spinal column are the sacrum (five vertebrae) and coccyx (makes up the tailbone).
Most of people’s back problems are located in the lower back. This region of the back contains three main muscles:
These muscles work together to help you stand, lift objects, turn and twist around at the waist, bend over to pick things up, and flex. When any of these muscles become strained or overworked, then you will experience pain.
Common causes of back pain
Let’s dive into what the common reasons why a person may be experiencing back pain in the first place. Back pain may be due to any of the following:
A back injury usually occurs when any of the muscles in the back become torn or strained. Someone who possibly lifts an object that is too heavy or lifts it in the wrong way will strain the back muscles resulting in pain. If you receive a severe blow to the back such as from an accident or falling etc., that is an emergency and does not constitute a simple strain.
Osteoarthritis of the spine
A protective cushioning surrounds the bones in your back. This bone cushioning is cartilage. If it breaks down, you develop osteoarthritis. Some people have a genetic condition that causes this to develop while with others it’s due to an injury. Whatever the cause is, it results in swelling and pain.
Disc rupture or herniated disc
Your back is made up of not only muscles but discs. These discs act as a buffer between the bones that form your spine. Your spine needs to be able to move up and down somewhat like a spring so you can stretch to reach things, bend over, and so forth. The discs serve as a cushioned buffer so the bones don’t hit each other when your spine settles back into natural position. However, the discs can become damaged or even too dry and bulge out or break. One of them may slip slightly out of place. The result is pain and sometimes numbness.
According to Spine Health, the effects of poor posture may go unnoticed for a while, but eventually, it leads to lower back pain. The anatomy of the back ends up changing over time leading to the pain.
How can you treat or reduce back pain?
If you are suffering from back pain due to a muscle strain or other back-related problem, you are probably ready for relief. Here are some tips to help you get some relief while recovering at home. However, remember to use common sense. If you experienced a blow to the back or are having other symptoms in conjunction with your lower back pain, consult with a medical professional immediately.
Unbelievably, lying around waiting to get better is not what your back needs. In fact, your back muscles may get stiff from lying in bed too much and it will be harder to mend.
Use heat or ice IF it eases symptoms
There isn’t any right or wrong way of doing this. Neither heat nor ice are proven methods for healing back pain. However, for some people, it may provide a temporary pain relief.
Some people find a gentle massage soothing. You can try this and see if it gives relief. If it instigates the problem, then stop.
You can always take over-the-counter pain relief medicine. In addition, topical pain rubs are often helpful in easing back pain.
Providing your back with needed support and compression will ensure that you don’t strain your back while you are healing. A lumbar support back brace will also give your abdomen muscles support and stability, which is necessary for those who suffer from poor posture problems.
Can I exercise with a back-related problem?
Exercise is one of the keys to a complete healing plan. As you engage in the right exercises, you can keep yourself limber and speed the healing process. However, always check with your physician first if you have any concerns about your injury or problem. If any exercise hurts, then it should be stopped until it no longer causes pain. Here are some recommended exercises for back injuries:
Gentle aerobic exercise
Begin with just a few minutes of easy aerobic exercises several times a day to ease back into movement. Walking is a generally a safe exercise to start with as long as you avoid inclines and steps. As time goes on, add a few minutes to your regimen.
Swimming is generally a gentle exercise. However, you may find it a bit more difficult on the back if you just had the back injury. So, do simple leg movements that do not put much pressure on your back.
Lie on the floor on your back. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor. Press your back into the floor and tighten your stomach at the same time. Hold this position for a few seconds.
Any abdomen exercise
The stronger your stomach muscles are, the less back pain you will experience. Why is this? Your stomach and back muscles both help support your spine. If your stomach muscles are weak, then the back carries more of the weight, which can result in pain. You can do crunches to strengthen your stomach muscles or lie. Another very simple stomach exercise is to lie on your back with your arms at your sides. While one leg is bent, slowly lift the other leg off the ground about 6-8 inches. Hold there a few seconds. Slowly, put your leg back down and repeat with the other leg. However, WebMD recommends against sit-ups.
Lie down with one leg bent. Pull your other leg up towards you by looping a towel over your foot and pulling it slightly until you feel a slight strain in the back of your leg. Repeat with the other leg. Alternate legs several times.
Squats are when you squat down like you are going to sit down. When you are just about in the sitting position, you stop and hold for a few seconds, then push back up with your heels. Doing wall squats is the same but you will use the wall as a support for your back. You start out about a foot from the wall with your feet apart and lean back against the wall. Then squat down in the same manner and back up again. You could also do this with an exercise ball if you have one.
When performing your exercises remember to warm up with a few gentle stretches and be sure you are wearing your back support. You will want to give your back all the extra help you can while in the recovery stages and beyond.
Experiencing a back injury doesn’t need to mean it’s the end of your active lifestyle. At Mueller Sports Medicine, we are committed to providing you everything you need to heal quickly. Whether you need a support or a brace, we carry a wide variety of sports injury equipment. Our goal is to help you find the tools and equipment that helps you feel great again.