You should know that back pain is a symptom- not a diagnosis in and of itself. There are several possible causes of back pain, including:
This is a result of the way your spine moves or the way you feel when your spine moves in certain ways. One of the most common mechanical causes of back pain is a condition known as intervertebral disc degeneration.
This basically means that the discs located between the vertebrae are degenerating, or breaking down with age. As they break down, they lose their ability to cushion the vertebrae.
This can result in back pain if the back is stressed. Another mechanical back problem is the wearing down of the facet joints, or the large joints that connect each of the vertebrae to each other.
Other mechanical problems that lead to pain in the back are spasms, ruptured/herniated discs, and muscle tension.
Injuries to the spine, such as fractures or sprains, can cause individuals to experience short-lived or even chronic back pain. Sprains occur when the ligaments supporting the spine become torn- which can occur if you twist or lift improperly.
Typically, fractured vertebrae occur as a result of osteoporosis, which is a condition that causes weak and porous bones. Less commonly, back pain occurs due to more severe injuries that result from falls or accidents.
There are lots of medical problems that can either cause or contribute to back pain. These include the following:
- Scoliosis: curvature of the spine and causes pain around mid-life
- Arthritis: including rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis
- Spinal stenosis: a narrowing of the spine that places pressure on the spinal cord and nerves
- Osteoporosis: not painful itself, but can cause fractures of the vertebrae
- Kidney stones/infections
Though not common back pain causes, infections can result in pain when the vertebrae are involved, which is a condition known as osteomyelitis, or if the discs that cushion the vertebrae are involved, a condition known as discitis.
Other fairly rare causes of back pain are tumors. Sometimes, tumors can begin in the back, but are often a result of cancer that has spread from other parts of the body.
Though it is true that most of the time, the causes of back pain are physical, you should also know that emotional stress plays a role in the severity of the pain and the length of time it lasts.
Stress can have lots of effects on the body, including causing the muscles in the back to become tense, and therefore painful. Also, depression or anxiety that goes untreated could result in the back pain being much worse. Insomnia can also contribute to pain in the back.
In most cases, doctors will reach for their prescription pad to treat back pain. However, you should know that you don’t always need pain pills to deal with your back pain. Following are some popular natural treatments.
There is strong evidence that acupuncture can be an effective supplement when used in conjunction with other forms of conventional therapy. So, how does it work?
Traditional Chinese medicine says that pain is a result of blocked energy pathways in the body, which can be unblocked by inserting needles along these invisible pathways.
If you’d like to try acupuncture to treat your back pain, you should know that in order for it to be effective, you must go one to three times per week for several weeks. You may be able to use it as a medical write-off on your taxes, and there are some insurance plans that now cover acupuncture.
One study showed that massage could be beneficial for those individuals who are suffering from subacute and even chronic nonspecific low back pain, especially when used in conjunction with exercises and education.
However, more research is necessary to confirm this conclusion. Additionally, massage therapy could be used to alleviate depression and anxiety associated with chronic pain. For women experiencing back pain during pregnancy, massage therapy is a popular choice.
One of the most common reasons people visit a chiropractor is due to back pain. Chiropractors use manually manipulate the spine in order to restore mobility to the joints.
They apply a manual, controlled force to those joints that have become restricted by muscle strain injury, pain, and inflammation.
It is believed that this manipulation relieves the pain and tightness in the muscles and encourages healing. It appears that chiropractic care reduces symptoms and improves function in those suffering from acute low back pain and sub-acute pain, as well as chronic low back pain.
Though you may not have heard of capsaicin before, if you’ve ever eaten a chili pepper, you do know what capsaicin does. In case you don’t know, capsaicin is the active ingredient in chili peppers.
When applied to the skin, it depletes substance P, which is the neurochemical that transmits pain. You can find capsaicin creams in your local drug stores, health food stores, or even online.
Typically, the dosage is 0.025% capsaicin cream four times daily. The most common side effects is a burning/stinging sensation in the area the cream is applied.
Since it is believed that inflammation plays a role in back pain, there are certain herbs that can be used to relieve inflammation and therefore, back pain.
For example, white willow bark is thought to have pain-relieving properties very similar to those of aspirin. Another herb that is used in treating back pain is Devil’s Claw. This herb contains harpagosides, which are thought to possess anti-inflammatory properties.
Practicing yoga helps to provide balance to the body through various poses that promote both strength and flexibility. Some research has shown that practicing yoga can actually help with back pain relief.
Of course, since back pain is a symptom and not a disorder in and of itself, you should visit your doctor and figure out what exactly is causing your back pain so that you can treat the cause and not just this symptom.
Also, before trying any herbal remedies, speak with your doctor, as herbs can have interactions with other medications you may be taking.