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While you can say “it’s spine” for mild back pains, severe back pains can be a pain in the butt.

Similar to headaches and the common cold, back pain affects almost everybody at some point of life. It can range from a simple muscle strain to fractures. 

To help you identify the risk factors and the best treatment for back pain, Dr Thuraikumar Kanniah, our Consultant Orthopaedic and Spine Surgeon offers some guidance for you to manage back pain.

What is back pain?

Back pain refers to any pain along the spine, from the neck down to the lower back. Pain in the lower back region, or lumbar, is the most common type of back pain that doctors face.

“85% of people with low back pain tend to not have any specific cause of the pain, despite a thorough medical examination. It is also known to be the leading cause of disability worldwide,” said Dr Thuraikumar.

Risk factors of back pain

There is a wide range of causes for back pain. Among the causes are :

  • Muscle sprains from exercising
  • Osteoporosis
  • Fractures
  • Non mechanical disease processes such as kidney problems, menstrual issues, tumours and infections of abdomen degenerative diseases
  • Stress induced
  • Trauma from accidents or falls
  • Posture

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Due to the variety of causes of back pain, certain groups of people are at higher risk of back  pain. Among them are :

  • Older people – As we age, bones and muscles get weaker. Age related diseases such as osteoporosis also play a role in back injuries.
  • Smokers – Smokers are more vulnerable to diseases like osteoporosis and disc disease. Smoking also contributes to spinal discs dying faster.
  • Office work – Sitting for long hours at a desk, without any movements, leads to bad posture which leads to back pains.
  • Hard labourers – Repetition of lifting heavy objects plays a role in back pains.
  • Obesity – Being overweight adds too much stress to discs and other spinal structures, causing them to be damaged
  • Sedentary lifestyle – Being inactive for long periods can cause bones to be stiff and weak.
  • Drivers – Similar to sitting in the office, drivers who work long hours tend to experience back pain.
  • Gym goers – Though being active and going to the gym to strengthen your body is good, having bad technique when lifting can cause back injuries

These groups of people are more prone to back pain, however, back pain can happen to anyone, at any time. 

When should you be worried?

Although most back pains can be treated with home remedies and over the counter medication, contact your doctor if there are worrying signs such as:

  • Back pain persists beyond a few days or weeks
  • Back pain keeps you awake at night
  • Difficulty in controlling bowel and bladder
  • Fever, chills, sweats or any other signs of infection. 
  • Other unusual symptoms such problems in walking or standing

When seeing a doctor, a physical examination will be done to determine the next step that should be taken.

“While most back pain can be treated easily, delaying your visit to the doctor, especially after noticing these signs can also lead to more serious diseases such as cancer,” said Dr Thuraikumar. 

Doctors may also do some imaging tests like X-rays, MRI, or a CT Scan. In some cases, laboratory investigations such as a blood test and bone density test might also be needed to detect any underlying diseases.

Treatment

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Treatments may vary, depending on the severity of the back pain. Among the treatments available are : 

  • Patient education, where patients are given advice about proper technique on posture, mobility and necessary changes needed in the patient’s daily life
  • Medication. Simple back pains can be solved easily with over the counter medication. If pain still persists after several days, see a doctor. Medication is not a solution, it is temporary. 
  • Physiotherapy. While there are people who prefer to do their own physiotherapy through videos on the internet, it is advisable to seek a professional physiotherapist to avoid it getting worse.
  • Injections are usually needed when nerves are swollen. It is a very effective and safe treatment.
  • Radiofrequency treatments. If an injection does not work, nerves in the spine that are causing the pain are burned. (Pain management)
  • Surgery will be involved when there is a concern with the spinal discs or if doctors find that the spine is unstable

If back pain is affecting your quality of life, Beacon Hospital provides many treatment options to help you rediscover life. 

Our Bone and Joints Centre of Excellence provides advanced and comprehensive treatment for all spine-related conditions. Book an appointment with one of our specialists now!

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