Almost everyone suffers from back pain at some point in their lives. You experience it not only when you participate in extreme or endurance sports but also due to routine things, such as bad posture or when you lift a heavy bag.
Back pain is so common that you may choose to ride it out and not take it seriously. A 2017 Statista survey shows that most people with back problems believe stress, weak muscles, lack of exercise, or physical work to be their causes.
Types of Back Pain
Backaches can be categorized as acute and chronic, based on how severe they are and how long they last.
Acute: Mild or severe pain that starts suddenly and lasts for a short duration. This may be caused by an accident or injury. About 80 percent of all back pain is acute.
Chronic: Mild or severe pain that usually develops over a longer period and lasts more than three months. About 5-10 percent of all back pain is chronic.
Common Causes of Back Pain
The back consists of bones, joints, ligaments, and muscles. Causes of back pain can be damage to any of these, diseases of the internal organs, skin irregularities, etc. Emotional stress may aggravate it, especially because it slows the speed of recovery.
Strain: Muscle or ligament strain, tension, or injury are frequent causes of back pain. You may or may not remember what triggered it, but back pain from strains resolves completely in a short period.
Structural Problems: If any of the disks cushioning the vertebrae in the spine rupture, bulge or slip, they cause pressure on nerves, resulting in back pain.
Many forms of arthritis that affect the joints, muscles, and bones can cause back pain. They usually affect the lower back, probably because it bears more of the body’s weight. Osteoarthritis can cause problems with the joints in the hips, lower back, and other places. In some cases, the space around the spinal cord narrows. This is known as spinal stenosis.
Examples of other structural problems that cause back pain are osteoporosis, where your bones, including the vertebrae of the spine, become brittle and porous; and scoliosis, where your spine starts curving.
Diseases of Internal Organs: Back pain may be caused by problems in abdominal and thoracic organs. Known as ‘referred back pain’, it may result from non-spine-related health problems, such as kidney problems and gallstones.
Movement and Posture: Poor posture or even some innocuous actions, such as twisting, coughing or sneezing, can cause back pain.
Damage to Nerves: When peripheral and spinal nerves are compressed for a long period, the protective barriers around them can break down and cause fluid build-up. This, in turn, could result in complications such as scarring, swelling, and increased nerve pressure.
Financial Implications of Back Pain
Low back pain is the most common cause of disability and loss of work time worldwide, affecting around 540 million people. Americans spend at least $50 billion each year to treat back pain. If you add indirect costs, such as losses in wages and overall productivity, the total cost exceeds $100 billion.
You may not be able to gauge how healthy or unhealthy your spine is from the pain you experience. Seek professional help if you have back pain after an accident or injury, or if it doesn’t get better after adequate rest. When it is accompanied by numbness, tingling, weakness, unexplained weight loss or fever, back pain is all the more critical. Back pain paired with the inability to control bladder or bowel movements can also be quite dangerous.
Medical professionals can read the signals your body sends and diagnose the underlying reason. They can offer apt solutions. This is why you should not ignore back pain or delay seeking medical attention. Get a head start on your diagnosis.