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Back Pain

FAQs: Back Pain

• What are the common causes of back pain?
• What are the risk factors associated with back pain?
• Why do I get back pain in the first place?
• What can I do to reduce my back pain?
• How high is the incidence of back pain?
• Should I stay in bed if I’m suffering from back pain?
• How to diagnose back pain?
• When should one consult a doctor?
• How can back pain be prevented?
• Which are the treatments available for back ain?
• Could I be damaging myself by ignoring my pain?
• Should I rest for my back pain?
• Do I need an operation?
• Do I need an x-ray?


What are the common causes of back pain?

The primary cause of low back pain is a lumbar strain and/or sprain to the lumbosacral muscles, ligaments and tendons of the low back. Lumbar strain is when the low back muscles become overstretched and tight as a result of overuse, twisting and/or bending the wrong way or trauma to the area.  Other common causes of low back pain include nerve irritation, disc herniations, degenerative changes, weight gain, and arthritic changes.

What are the risk factors associated with back pain?

One of the main risk factors associated with low back pain are having a previous history of a low back injury.  Occupations that require heavy lifting, standing and twisting motions, increased sitting or working with tools that vibrate also predispose a person to have low back pain.  As a result of today’s increased workload and reliance on computers and technology, more and more people are sitting and are not maintaining a healthy lifestyle.  Overweight and obesity are also primary reasons for the increased occurrence of low back pain disorders.  It takes more effort to stand up and exercise, but we all need to try to do more of it in order to eliminate the onset of low back pain.

Why do I get back pain in the first place?

Most people get low back pain as result of being out of shape and lifting or twisting improperly.  As well, the majority of the population have weak glutes which cause pelvic instability which reduces spinal stability.  To prevent low back pain from occurring in the first place do you best to stay as active as possible maintaining a good combination of muscular endurance, strength, power, flexibility, balance, cardiovascular health and coordination.  If your exercise program is one that is global in nature and builds upon a proper foundation and incorporates, all the elements mentioned above then low back pain will be prevented.

What can I do to reduce my back pain?

Stay as active as possible. Keep moving and find pain relieving positions as quickly as possibly.  Use ice or heat to help reduce pain so that you can begin to move.  Find a qualified chiropractor and physiotherapist that integrates soft tissue with manual therapy and exercise rehabilitation to work with so that you can recover quickly and effectively.

How high is the incidence of back pain?

The incidence of low back pain is approximately eighty percent.  Four out of five people will suffer from mechanical neck or low back during their lifetime.  Approximately fifty percent will suffer a recurrence of low back pain.  Back pain is one of the leading causes for work days lost along with stress.  Back pain and stress are correlated since many people often hold their stress within their muscles thus causing neck and back pain.  Organizations are becoming more aware of how important it is promote health and wellness initiatives within their companies to prevent back pain and other repetitive strain injuries from occurring.  A healthy employee is a more productive and happy employee.  Research demonstrates that health and wellness initiatives increase employee productivity, morale and most importantly reduce the number of work days lost, which essentially saves everyone money.

Should I stay in bed if I’m suffering from back pain?

Bed rest is the worse thing you can do for back pain.  It will actually make your condition worse.  Try to continue to move as much as possible during your injury as this will prevent scar tissue from developing.  As well, the more you move the less likely your muscles will begin to weaken and atrophy following the injury which sill prevent a longer recovery rehabilitation process.

How to diagnose back pain?

Back pain is best diagnosed by a medical professional, be it a physician, sports medicine doctor, chiropractor or physiotherapist.

When should one consult a doctor?

You should always consult a doctor if your body just doesn’t feel right.  It is imperative that you consult a doctor immediately if the pain is progressively getting worse, waking you up at night, the pain cannot be relieved and if you have noticed a sudden decrease in weight.

How can back pain be prevented?

Back pain can best be prevented through an active healthy lifestyle.  This includes daily exercise for minimum 30 minutes, eating a well-balanced nutritious diet, sleeping minimum 7 hours a night, reducing stress, and drinking adequate amount of fluid per day.  The best way to prevent low back pain is through movement.  Do your best to avoid sitting or standing in the same position for any longer than 20 to 30 minutes as this is when tissues start to deform and stretch from their natural position.

Which are the treatments available for back pain?

Research clearly demonstrates that the best treatment for low back pain consists of integrating manual therapy with supervised exercises.  The current best-evidence concluded that “spinal manipulation was cost-effective in the treatment of patients with sub-acute and chronic LBP, as were interdisciplinary rehabilitation, exercise, acupuncture and cognitive-behavioral therapy. However, there was not enough evidence to reach a conclusion about the cost-effectiveness of spinal manipulation in the treatment of acute LBP (www.researchreviewservice.com).”

Could I be damaging myself by ignoring my pain?

If you are experiencing pain then you may be progressively making your condition worse.  It is best to be advised and receive a proper diagnosis which will determine the best course of treatment by a physician, chiropractor or physiotherapist.

Should I rest for my back pain?

Bed rest should be typically avoided as it has been shown to delay the healing process and make your back pain worse.  However, when the injury is extremely severe and limiting your functional movements rest may be needed for 24 to 48 hours to allow you to recover in a pain free position.   However, movement and stretching within a pain free zone should be encouraged to expedite the recovery process.

Do I need an operation?

Surgical care is only needed in severe cases of low back pain such as radiculopathy, disc herniations, stenosis or pathological causes such as cancer, tumor, etc.

Do I need an x-ray?

An x-ray will be taken by your regulated health care professional if have ‘red flags’ present upon examination.  Red flags would include but are not limited to pain that cannot be reproduced during physical examination, previous history of cancer, trauma, unexplained weight loss, infection, osteoporosis, etc.