What Causes Back Pain?
The back is a complicated structure with a number of tissues: muscles, ligaments, joints, discs, nerves. When back pain occurs, it could be caused by a problem with any of the tissues. Most problems, like those resulting from muscle or ligament strain, are temporary and will go away on their own. Others, like bulging or ruptured discs between the vertebrae, may be more tenacious.
Sometimes there can be a combination of causes. If there is a problem with a joint, for instance, the muscles will involuntarily tense to protect the joint from excessive movement and may go into spasm, causing sharp pain.
If back pain lasts for more than a few weeks, it is advisable to be seen by a physical therapist or doctor to establish the cause and to find appropriate treatment.
For most people, pain relief is an adequate response. There is a wide range of medications available. As back pain is often associated with inflammation, anti-inflammatory drugs are generally used, and these can be taken by mouth or applied topically to the skin as an ointment.
Many natural products are also available with a pain-reducing reputation:
● Capsaicin is the chemical that gives the hotness to chili pepper. Applied to the skin in a lotion it is often an effective pain relief.
● Turmeric, white willow herb, and devil’s claw are just some of the herbal options whose anti-inflammatory properties have been found by many to be helpful.
● Some trials have indicated that increased doses of vitamins B12 and D, and of magnesium, work in some cases.
Acupuncture is favored by many people and seems to be more effective than ‘placebo acupuncture’ although no one has come up with a scientific explanation.
Stimulating the nerve cells with TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) equipment sends signals to the brain which block the pain pathways and encourage endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers.
Relaxation and Exercise
As much back pain is connected to the way that muscles behave, toning the muscles through exercise and learning to relax them is a very important part of the treatment. Even if the problem is in the joints, strengthening the supporting muscles will have a definite benefit.
Ordinary daily routines of walking and gently exercising the main groups of muscles will be good for those who can manage it. Take advice from a physical therapist before undertaking any regimes involving weights or other more strenuous techniques.
For really getting to grips with the workings of your whole body, try one of the following by attending a proper class:
● Tai Chi
● Water Therapy or Aqua Pilates
● Alexander Technique
All of these gently build up muscle tone and good posture while mobilizing joints.
Massage and hot baths are a good way to relax muscles, and remember to get plenty of sleep on a comfortable, supportive mattress.
Getting to Grips with Vertebrae
Chiropractors are specialists in dealing with spinal misalignment. They will carry out a detailed physical examination and may recommend any of the above treatments. They may then recommend a process of chiropractic adjustments to your spine by a series of manipulations. These will help to line up your vertebrae in a healthy pattern and relieve the pressure on the nerves in the spinal column.
As a last resort, some people have to turn to surgery, often involving the fusion of vertebrae, but this is unusual. Only about 5% of all back pain sufferers need surgery. It is irreversible, and it comes with the risks that accompany all surgical procedures.
A Positive Attitude
Although persistent back pain can be depressing and exhausting, it is as well to know that you are in good company and that most back pain improves within a few months. There is no shortage of treatments and procedures and you will probably find one that works for you. Learning how to deal with back pain can set up good habits in how you move, sit, and sleep, and these habits will help to prevent the recurrence of problems in the future.
Hollie Gilbert has suffered with back pain for many years on and off. She writes about this, sharing her journey of back pain and relief for the pain in her articles.
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