Why do we have back pain?
Whether chronic or occasional, back pain is a very common phenomenon in industrialized countries. Want proof? Nearly 20 million Canadians suffer with backache at least once in their life, according to the Arthritis Society. Let’s take the time to get the lowdown on the subject.
What are the components of the back?
The spinal column is one of the complex structures of the human body, made up of bones tied together with muscles, ligaments and tendons. Together, they form your back. This area of the body, which stretches from shoulders to kidneys, carries a major proportion of our weight. Both fragile and strong, we call on its expertise for almost every one of our body movements, thus exposing it all the more to injury.
Back pain: what treatments are possible?
There are several ways to temporarily relieve low back pain. Depending on the origin of the pain, applying heat, for example with a heating pad or a "magic" bag, can help to relax the muscles. Cold, on the other hand, numbs the pain and reduces inflammation.
A variety of over-the-counter medications are available to relieve back pain: analgesics, anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxants.
They are available in different forms (capsules, tablets or self-adhesive patches) and are used to reduce pain.
These products are not suitable for everyone. It is best to consult the pharmacist to find out which one is appropriate for your situation.
People with chronic back pain can also turn to an alternative method (physiotherapy, massage therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic or osteopathy). If you are interested, ask the associations or professional orders concerned to find a therapist you can trust.
Back pain: What are the causes?
Although back pain can appear anywhere along the spine, in the vast majority of cases it is located in the lower back, where the lumbar vertebrae are located. This is called "low back pain". The majority of back pain is not related to disease, but rather to stress, especially if it is repetitive, poor posture, menstruation in women or aging.
Several factors can increase the risk of back pain, including:
- lack of physical exercise or overtraining;
- the overweight;
- the wearing of high heels shoes;
- prolonged stress, as it causes muscle tension.
In addition, some back pain can be caused by:
- bone problems (e. g. lordosis, scoliosis);
- of osteoarthritis;
- of osteoporosis;
- a sprain or a breakdown;
- a degeneration or herniated disc;
- a trauma, such as a fall or a fracture.
Although they can affect quality of life, most back pain is mild and can be effectively relieved with changes in the environment or habits and occasional medication.
However, it is necessary to see a doctor quickly if back pain:
- occurs following a trauma;
- is constant or intensifies, especially at night;
- radiates in the legs or causes numbness, tingling or weakness in the legs;
- occurred at the same time as intestinal or urinary problems (including urinary incontinence);
- is associated with unexplained weight loss, chills or fever.
How to prevent back pain?
As in many other situations, with back pain an ounce of prevention is always worth a pound of cure! Here are a few tips that can help:
- achieve and maintain a healthy body weight;
- do regular physical exercise; yoga and Pilates are especially efficient because they help improve your muscle strength and elasticity;
- alternate light tasks with those that are more demanding or repetitive and take regular breaks;m
- be aware of your posture and always stand erect;
- always lift heavy objects while bending your knees;
- avoid twisting your back;
- sleep on your back or your side;
- don’t stay a long time in the same position; think about using a desk with variable height if you work all day at a computer;
- wear comfortable and well-fitting shoes and, for women, with heels no higher than 5 cm;
- use a knapsack rather than a purse or a shoulder bag to carry your laptop and personal items (and wear it correctly, on both shoulders!).
Your family pharmacist can help to ease your lumbago effectively, whether through non- pharmacological means or by taking medications, when appropriate. Feel free to contact him!