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If you suffer from back pain, you are not alone. Back pain affects 80% of the population at some point during their lives – including men, women, and children – making back pain one of today’s most common medical problems and the leading cause for missed days at work. “What’s causing my back pain?” is a not a simple question to answer, however, since back pain can range from a constant, dull ache to sharp, sudden pains. While most cases of back pain are ‘acute,’ lasting from a few days to a few weeks, back pain can also be ‘chronic’ if symptoms persist for more than three months.

Back pain effects 80% of all Canadians.

Back pain effects 80% of all Canadians.

Importance of Good Back Health

Since the spinal column supports the trunk and makes all of our physical movements possible, good spinal health is essential to our well being. An injured or impaired spine leads to back pain which can range from mild to disabling. The back is often called the powerhouse of the entire body. As such, learning how to take care of your back, how to strengthen the muscles supporting the back, and how to maintain a supple and strong spine go a long way in preventing back pain and injury.

Back Pain Causes

What causes back pain? There are multiple precursors, risk factors, and conditions which can give rise to pain in the back. These include:

  • Musculoskeletal problems such as spinal disc injury/rupture/breakdown, muscle tension, spasms

  • Poor posture during prolonged periods of sitting

  • Heavy lifting

  • Accidents/falls, sports injuries, fractures/sprains

  • Conditions and diseases such as pregnancy, kidney stones, arthritis, infection, scoliosis, spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, degenerative disc disease (DDD), and more

  • Stress, tumors

  • Overweight backpacks and undersized school chairs/desks leading to chronic back pain in children and adolescents

Back Pain Risk Factors

Although anyone can experience back pain, individuals who are most at risk include:

  • Elderly

  • Overweight people

  • People with poor physical fitness

  • People with a genetic component affecting the spine (heredity)

  • Individuals whose job entails lifting/pushing/pulling

  • Individuals with sedentary desk jobs

  • People with poor sitting posture

  • Smokers

Back Pain Prevention

Inactivity and insufficient exercise cause the muscles supporting the spine and trunk to become weaker and less able to support the spine in its natural position; hence regular cardiovascular exercise is the most beneficial way to prevent back pain. In addition, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has recommended a series of at-home exercises designed to condition and strengthen the muscles supporting the spinal column, as well as to keep the muscles of the hips, thighs, and stomach strong and flexible.

You Can Also Prevent Back Pain By:

  • Maintain a healthy weight

  • Ensure your diet includes enough calcium and vitamin D

  • Avoid heavy lifting; when necessary, lift with knees bent and a straight back

  • Learn proper sitting posture/invest in a back-friendly ergonomic chair

Back Pain Treatment

Treatment for back pain depends on the type of pain you are experiencing and what is causing it.

For acute back pain, which typically gets better on its own, treatment includes:

  • Hot packs to reduce pain and muscle spasms

  • Cold packs to reduce swelling and numb pain

  • Anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen to reduce inflammation and pain

In other instances of back pain, doctors may recommend treatment options such as:

  • Acupuncture

  • Physical therapy

  • Chiropractic care

  • Epidural (steroid) injections

  • Medications

In cases of chronic back pain, surgical treatment options include:

  • Spinal fusion surgery

  • Minimally invasive discectomy

  • Laminectomy

  • Anterior/Posterior/Direct/Transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF/PLIF/DLIF/TLIF)