Back Pain Musings
Back pain affects people all over the world. Of working Americans, about half are afflicted with back pain symptoms each year. It’s one of the most common reasons for missed work and is only surpassed by upper respiratory infections as ‘a reason for doctor visits’ per year in the health statistics.
Back pain causes
Most cases of back pain are mechanical – meaning that they are NOT caused by diseases such as cancer, inflammatory arthritis, infections, or fractures. It’s also estimated that 80% of the US population will experience back pain at some point in their working career and as much as $50 BILLION (with a B) is spent each year on back pain. Which leaves about 31 million Americans experiencing back pain at any given time. ,
What Causes Back Pain?
The human spine is a complex column of bones, ligaments and muscles that compromise a complex joint structure. Most notably sports injuries are likely to be at the top of the laypersons lists of causes, but there are still incidences (such as picking up a sheet of paper on the floor) that render a visit to a back pain specialist. Back pain during pregnancy is a common tendency for women as well. There are also some disease processes that afflict back pain as well such cancerous organs, blood clots, gall stones, kidney stones, or even osteoporosis.
It’s easy to see how sports injuries might rank high, especially in rodeo & football injuries, but a commonly overlooked source of spinal injuries are induced from auto accidents. In fact, it only takes a 5mph fender bender to cause enough of an axial skeletal load to be considered whiplash. Many vehicles won’t even sustain a dent at this speed!
Pregnancy is also overseen as a source of back pain, and it’s likely due to the fact that pregnancy back pain is a gradual process. Not only is it gradual, but it’s often indicated by some health care professionals as ‘NORMAL.’ Back pain in pregnancy is COMMON, and it’s so common that this term is often synonymous with NORMAL. There are many pregnancies that go full term with little to no pain in the back or spine.
As mentioned above, most pain in the spine is biomechanical…the reason this is important to note in pregnancy is that biomechanics are stressed to the max while a fetus is carried through a full term pregnancy. This additional weight and altered posture carries its effects into the gait cycle thus also causing added mechanical stress to the spinal column.
Spinal abnormalities can also cause a dull achy or even sometimes sharp pain that radiates along a nerve root. Conditions like this are sometimes congenital (you’re born with it) or induced. Some congenital conditions include scoliosis, hemivertebrae, facet tropism and even spondylolisthesis. Other inducible conditions include osteoporosis, gall stones, kidney stones, and of course injuries. The inducible forms of back pain (which is MOST common) can often be attributed from diet. It’s been documented repeatedly that conditions such as kidney stones, gallstones, and osteoporosis can be prevented (and even curable) with diet.
BELOW is a list from the ACA (American Chiropractic Association) for tips on preventing back pain.
Tips to Prevent Back Pain
- Maintain a healthy diet and weight.
- Remain active—under the supervision of your doctor of chiropractic.
- Avoid prolonged inactivity or bed rest.
- Warm up or stretch before exercising or other physical activities, such as gardening.
- Maintain proper posture.
- Wear comfortable,low heeled shoes. (I frequently recommend and cast patients for custom orthotics.
- I get asked a lot “What’s the best mattress for back pain?” (That’s another story-look for the answer here eventually)
- Sleep on a mattress for of medium to firm support to minimize any curve in your spine.
- Lift with your knees, keep the object close to your body and do not twist when lifting.
- Smoking impairs blood flow, resulting in oxygen and nutrient deprivation to spinal tissues. So quit.
- Work with your doctor of chiropractic to ensure that your computer workstation is ergonomically correct.
 Jensen M, Brant-Zawadzki M, Obuchowski N, et al. Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Lumbar Spine in People Without Back Pain.
N Engl J Med 1994; 331: 69-116.