Back pain is a common and sometimes debilitating problem for many people at sometime in their lives. Back pain can occur in the upper, mid or lower back and can be caused by a variety of reasons. Most are easily treatable, once the cause has been established, a treatment plan can be formed dependant on the diagnosis. The key to helping a patient, is the correct diagnosis and finding the cause of the pain.
Some of the most common causes of back pain are;
- Disc related pain (Don't panic, Disc pain is a commonly misunderstood problem)- This maybe a acute disc bulge, chronic thinning of the disc, annular tear, there are more severe forms of disc problems, however these are generally uncommon. Disc pain is commonly associated with sciatica or referred leg pain. Download our guide to Disc pain Here
- Facet Joint Restriction/Inflammation/Lock - This commonly presents as acute pain in the neck or lower back, that has started quite suddenly and causes difficulty moving the associated area. It often causes muscular spasm and quite sever pain and difficulty extending the affected region, ie lower back. The facet joints are joints between the vertebra which are surrounded by a capsule of soft tissue and ligament. When the facet joint is strained, the joint becomes inflamed and painful and causes pain in the surrounding structures. This is normally straightforward to treat and something an osteopath can help with.
- Occupational/Postural - A common misconception is that our upper back muscles become tight and "knotted" when we spend long hours working at a desk or due to poor posture. In fact it is often quite the opposite problem that is occurring. A very common problem is chronic weakness in the back, when the spinal/thoracic (upper back) muscles are subjected to long hours spent in a seated position or under a repetitive strain, pain is often the most common outcome. Treatment is often the short term solution to this problem, Osteopathy is a good place to start to relieve the symptoms, sports massage is a great way to regularly treat the of the feeling of tension. Long term, an effective spinal/back strengthening program is key. Without strengthening the back muscles this problem will keep reoccurring. See Spinal Strengthening & Mobility or book a spinal rehab session. (Requires initial diagnosis)
- Ligament Sprain/Damage -
Some common questions that we are asked during a consultation:
Q: Should I move or rest? A: The spine and back are designed to move, that being said you shouldn't over do it! My best advice to patients is, stand, walk or lie down, but try and avoid sitting for long periods. This is especially important with disc and facet pain as after a long period sitting it can be difficult and painful to stand again. So rest completely and lie down, ideally on your side with a thick pillow between the knees or stand up and move around. Keep switching, and keep as active as possible within reason (See disc pain guide for more advice)