Back pain is very common. Most people will suffer one or more episodes of back pain during their lives. In many cases, it starts suddenly and gets better quickly, without the need for any treatment.
However, back pain can be painful, debilitating and persistent, and some people suffer repeated episodes. It can also be associated with other symptoms, such as leg pain. It may start following a specific incident, such as bending awkwardly or lifting a heavy weight, or it can develop gradually, perhaps as a result of poor posture, an uncomfortable work position or repetitive strain.
There are many different types of back pain, with different causes. The key to getting the right treatment is to establish which type of back pain you may be suffering from and to seek advice if it is not improving.
Your spine is one of the strongest parts of your body. It is made of individual segments called vertebra, and in between these vertebra are discs which act as shock absorbers and maintain flexibility. Your back is reinforced by strong ligaments, surrounded by powerful muscles for support.
Back pain can be felt in one or both sides of the back, sometimes between the shoulder blades or from waist level and into the buttocks and down the front or back of the legs. It can be a sharp or dull pain, and can spread into the lower legs and sometimes as far as the feet.
The majority of people with back pain are suffering from what is known as ‘simple’ or ‘mechanical’ back pain. This means that the pain is not related to any serious underlying condition. Muscles, joints and ligaments can all be involved in back pain. Simple back pain can be caused by poor posture, prolonged sitting in an uncomfortable position, and even muscular tension due to emotional or work-related stress.
Simple back pain is relatively common. People experience back pain for all sorts of reasons. It might be the way they sit or stand, or because their work or lifestyle causes stress and strain on their back. Worry or stress can cause tension in the back muscles, or can delay recovery of existing back pain. Sometimes an old injury, or wear and tear over time, might also cause problems.
Although it can be very painful, back pain rarely has a serious underlying cause. Seeing a qualified health professional, such as a chiropractor, who is experienced in diagnosing conditions of the back and spine, can help treat back pain, and also identify if a referral or specialist investigations are needed.