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Back Pain: Treat it and Beat it

All of us, at one time or another, have experienced back pain. Whether it be the mild discomfort caused from sitting in the same space for hours at a time, or the kind of pain that keeps you from going about your everyday routine, back pain affects everyone at some point in their lives. Back pain can be a nuisance, or be completely incapacitating. The key is to know the home remedies for the milder cases, and when to go to the doctor for more persistent pain. The most common types of back pain are lower back pain, middle back pain, upper back pain or low back pain with sciatica.

Lower Back Pain

Lower back pain happens in the lumbar region and begins right under the rib cage. Lower back pain can cause a persistent aching, or come on in sharp bursts, or ‘acute pain’. If the pain lasts for more than 72 hours, a physician should be consulted. If the pain lasts for more than three months, it is defined as chronic pain. Myofascial pain syndromes and fibromyalgia can also be the cause of lower back pain. Myofascial pain causes localized aching and tenderness and a loss of motion in specific muscle groups. Fibromyalgia causes pain when a trigger point is touched and is known to cause fatigue and stiffness. Urgent attention is required if you are suffering from the following symptoms: pain during urination or coughing, fever, loss of bowel and bladder control, leg weakness, and fatigue.

What to do

Stretch. Loosening up the muscle joints can give way to freer joint movements and less pain.

Upper and Middle Back Pain

Upper and middle back pain are caused by a few things, most of which can be easily corrected. Overuse of the back is a large contributor to this type of back pain. Pushing yourself past your body’s limitations can cause muscle tears or extreme site discomfort. People who play sports or do a lot of heavy lifting often experience this type of back pain. Although, certainly, upper and middle back pain can come down to physical activity, it can also be a result of other conditions. Osteoarthritis (the breaking down of cartilage between joints), scoliosis (the curving of the spine in an unnatural way) and herniated disks (the pressing of bulging disks into nerves) are conditions which can also lead to intense discomfort or pain in the upper and middle back region. Urgent attention is required if this back pain is coupled with chest pain, nausea and vomiting, or lightheadedness.

What to do

Improving your posture can do wonders for the back. People who slouch put tension on certain areas of the spine while neglecting others. Taking it easy; being active is important, but don’t overdo it. Rest is important, but too much rest can lead to the weakening of back muscles. Exercise catering to the back, shoulders and stomach help strengthen the core, which is very important to back health.

Sciatica

Sciatic pain is caused by the rupturing or bulging of a disk, often caused by straining past your physical limits. If an aggravated disk makes contact with the sciatic nerve, pain is experienced from the buttocks down into the legs. Sciatica happens most commonly in people between the ages of 30-50, and can be diagnosed by a physical exam, an MRI and a CT scan.

What to do

Heat and ice; one or the other may bring more relief, or a combination of the two, so it is simply a matter of preference. Heating and/or icing the affected area every 2 hours for 20 minutes can make a world of difference. Anti-inflammatory pain relievers are also recommended, as well as frequent stretching. Loosening up the joints and building up strength is not only good for some immediate relief, but it has positive long-term effects on your back. In more serious cases, the doctor may recommend steroid injections or surgery to remove a portion of a herniated disk.
Though back pain can range from being a nuisance to debilitating, there are many ways to treat the symptoms and lead a more comfortable life. Certainly, at-home remedies and improving your lifestyle are important to the healing process, but consulting a physician and learning what exactly needs to be done for your specific case is invaluable.

References

WebMD: Slideshow: A visual guide to lower back pain. Accessed from: http://www.webmd.com/back-pain/ss/slideshow-low-back-pain-overview
Accessed July 15, 2015.

Photo Credit: Unfurled via Compfight cc

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