BACK PAIN

Where do I start?

Studies have revealed that 1 in 4 people suffer from back pain at some stage in their lives. If you compare that to other pains, aches or medical conditions it is a very high statistic and yet it is one problem that does not appear to have a structured approach to its management and/or treatment.

How many articles do you see in the newspaper on Back Pain and how many millions of references on the Internet will you find if you type in ‘back’ and ‘pain’ together.

How can you sieve through all this literature and decide what is relevant to you, and then make an informed decision on what is the best path for you to take in your quest for pain relief from your specific affliction.
How many people claim to be able to treat back pain, and how many people run from ‘Billy to Jack’ and back again to ‘Billy’ in an attempt at relieving themselves of this scourge.
You’ll find orthopaedic and neurosurgeons, rheumatologist and pain specialists, general practitioners, physiotherapists, osteopaths, chiropractors, massage therapists, acupuncturists, reflexologists, herbalists, holistic practitioners, spinologists and bone setters.

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I am not going to attempt to tell you which of these work and which don’t or if they are recommended, safe or unsafe because I cannot say what will or won’t work for any individual without assessing them first. I am also not condoning or opposing any form of treatment in this article. All I am trying to do today is make you aware that there is no ONE right way of dealing with back pain, which works for everyone.
Unfortunately, the general public are faced with so many choices regarding their own back pain. Many of these recognised and alternative treatments can be nicely packaged and promoted in such a manner that the sufferer does not know what is likely to work for them.

What I plan to do over the next few weeks is discuss various causes of back pain in such a way that back sufferers may be able to relate a little better to their specific pain and perhaps point them in the right direction regarding what treatment/management to seek out.

The Spine
In order to understand our backs, we need to take a look at the anatomy of the spine.

The spine is made up of seven cervical (neck) vertebrae, twelve thoracic (upper back) vertebrae and five lumbar (low back) vertebrae. These bones are designed to take weight in the front part and then to move relative to each other. They are held together by ligaments and moved by muscles. The nerves, which come out between these bones, supply all the organs of the body and activate the muscles of the body to make it move.
As all of these structures are packed closely together, any dysfunction of one, will have an effect on another.

Possible causes of Back Pain
Back Pain may be divided firstly into three categories:
(a) Acute Back Pain following a fall, accident, sport or sudden movement.
(b) Chronic Back Pain which the sufferer may have for a period of months or years. This could be caused by sedentary lifestyle or heavy manual work, poor posture, repetitive sports, structural problems etc.
(c) Acute on chronic pain, where the sufferer has a flare up of a chronic or previous back pain.

Types of Back Pain
Now, this is where it gets scary.
Any of the following can be the structure which causes your back pain, if it is due to a mechanical cause.
• Discs
• Facet joints
• Ligaments
• Muscles
• Nerves
• Fascia
It may also be a combination of several of these. There are also non-mechanical causes of back pain, which we won’t look into this time.

So, over the next few weeks I am going to look at each of these structures in detail and try to relay to you in what way they can cause pain and what you can do about it.

Next week we’ll look at discs.