Since man is an upright creature, his low back bears a considerable amount of weight. The low back region, just above the hip level, is extremely prone to strain. As a result, backache affects nearly everyone at some point in their lives. Backache is said to be ‘chronic’ or persistent if it lasts for 12 weeks or more.
Our low back or lumbar region, consists of five bony segments called lumbar vertebrae ‘stacked’ end to end, each separated from the next by a gel-like disc which acts as a shock absorber. The segments are movable at their linkage points called facet joints. These vertebrae together form a column and bony canal through which the spinal cord runs. The spinal cord gives off pairs of spinal nerves at each segment near the facet joints.
Pain may arise if:
If any of these happens, the back muscles tense up increasing pressure on the nerves and making the pain even worse (muscle spasm).
Prolonged sitting, standing, lifting or
poor posture or overuse can cause
muscles in the low back to become
sore (backstrain) even if none of the
above structural events occur.
Pain can run down the thigh( sciatica)
due to pressure on the sciatic nerve
which is the nerve supplying the leg.
Sometimes numbness or pins and
needles (parasthesia) occur. Calf ache
relieved by sitting, is due to pressure
build up in the spinal canal in cases of
Surgery is normally not needed for chronic back pain.
X-rays can reveal bony structures,
while a more detailed scan called MRI
(magnetic resonance imaging) will
show up nerves, discs and muscles.
In most cases, bed rest which relieves
the back of its weight and pain
medication is all that is needed.
If a compression fracture is diagnosed,
osteoporosis medications must be
administered. Physiotherapy can help
relieve muscle spasm by manipulation,
traction (stretching of the vertebral
column by application of weights)
exercises and heat treatment. Back
care education on how to avoid
straining the back further can be
taught by the physiotherapist. Weight
reduction is also important to reduce
the load on the spine.
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