Not many people have been lucky enough not to experience back pain at some point in their life. Therefore it can’t be surprising that this is one of the most common causes of absence from work. There are so many different structures in and around the back and neck that be responsible for pain. We are going to focus on the most common:
Muscle sprains can be incredibly painful when acute. Although the most common cause for muscle sprains, they can equally be caused by sneezing to overreaching your back.
Treatment: The good news is that in most cases muscle sprains heal relatively quickly with rest and medication from the GP usually in the form of anti-inflammatories. It is important to keep moving and active, whilst also giving the muscle the chance to recover. A difficult balancing act. An NHS booklet provides some excellent practical advice on what people should do to manage acute back pain (click on the picture)
If symptoms do not resolve physiotherapy should be provided to restore normal range of movement.
The intervertebral discs in your spine can bulge out and press upon your spinal nerves. This pressure on the nerves can result in some of the following symptoms - pain, altered sensation and muscle weakness.
Treatment: If disc bulges are minor they respond well to physiotherapy. However, larger bulges giving rise to more severe symptoms greatly increase the likelihood that surgery will be required to remove part of the disc causing the pressure. This is known as a discectomy
This is essentially wear and tear. Most of our joints will show signs of wear in time as unfortunately they are not designed to last forever. Some joints wear more than others, especially weight bearing ones like your hip and knees compared for instance to your elbows. We have joints in our backs called facet joints which can also start to degenerate over time.
Treatment: Joints with osteoarthritis can and will eventually cause pain and your facet joints are no different. At present you cannot replace worn facet joints with new ones like you can with hips and knees so current treatment requires either pain relieving injections or spinal fusion surgery.
On a positive note…..prevention is better than a cure. If people maintain good posture, a healthy weight and remain active they are less likely to suffer back pain.