Do you experience back pain occasionally? If you do, you are not alone. Back pain is a very common complaint. Approximately 80% of us will experience back pain at least once in their lifetime.
Back pain affects almost everyone at any age, it is significantly more common among adults aged between 35 and 55 years old. Pain in the lower back may be linked to the lumbar spine, discs between the vertebrae, spinal cord and nerves, lower back muscles or surround organs & tissues. Pain in the upper back, on the other hand, may be due to tumours in the chest and lungs, spine inflammation and disorders of the aorta and heart.
Potential causes of back pain
The human back is made up of a complex structure of disk and bones, muscles, ligaments and tendons. Problems in any of these components can lead to back pain. In rare cases of back pain, the cause is never found.
Strain is one of the most common causes of back pain. Typically, back pain occurs when:
- Lifting something improperly or too heavy eg. luggage or gym weights
- Making an abrupt movement
- Coughing bouts
Structural problems may also result in back pain:
- Abnormal curvature of the spine, eg. Scoliosis, Kyphosis
- Arthritis: patients with osteoarthritis experience problems with the joints in the lower back, hip, knees and hands.
- Ruptured disks: each vertebra in our spine is cushioned by disk. If the disk ruptures, there will be more pressure exerted on the nerve, resulting in back pain.
Everyday activities or poor posture may also result in back pain.
- Standing for long periods of time
- Long driving sessions without a break
- Sitting in a hunched position for long periods (in the office or on the bed)
When to see a doctor
Fortunately, most forms of treatment get better on their own: approximately 50% of patients will experience back pain relief within two weeks. However, if any of the following symptoms are accompanied by your back pain, it is advisable to see an orthopaedic specialist.
- Back spasm more than 2 weeks
- Weight loss
- Leg pain (sciatica)
- Difficulty urinating
- Faecal incontinence
What to expect during your doctor visit
If your doctor suspect that the pain is due to an underlying cause, he/she may recommend further tests (X-ray/ MRI) to be done to help diagnosis. Fortunately, most forms of treatment get better on their own or with medication or physiotherapy.