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Back Pain

Back pain is a very common complaint. According to the Mayo Clinic, approximately 80% of all Americans will have low back pain at least once in their lives.

Back pain is a common reason for absence from work and doctor visits. Although back pain may be painful and uncomfortable, it is not usually serious.

Even though back pain can affect people of any age, it is significantly more common among adults aged between 35 and 55 years. Experts say that back pain is associated with the way our bones, muscles and ligaments in our backs work together.

Pain in the lower back may be linked to the bony lumbar spine, discs between the vertebrae, ligaments around the spine and discs, spinal cord and nerves, lower back muscles, abdomen and pelvic internal organs, and the skin around the lumbar area. Pain in the upper back may be due to disorders of the aorta, tumors in the chest, and spine inflammation.

Risk factors for back pain

A risk factor is something which increases the likelihood of developing a condition or disease. For example, obesity significantly raises the risk of developing diabetes type 2. Therefore, obesity is a risk factor for diabetes type 2.

The following factors are linked to a higher risk of developing low back pain:

 

  • A mentally stressful job
  • Pregnancy - pregnant women are much more likely to get back pain
  • A sedentary lifestyle
  • Age - older adults are more susceptible than young adults or children
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Gender - back pain is more common among females than males
  • Obesity/overweight
  • Smoking
  • Strenuous physical exercise (especially if not done properly)
  • Strenuous physical work.
     

Signs and symptoms of back pain

A symptom is something the patient feels and reports, while a sign is something other people, such as the doctor detect. For example, pain may be a symptom while a rash may be a sign. 

The main symptom of back pain is, as the name suggests, an ache or pain anywhere on the back, and sometimes all the way down to the buttocks and legs. In most cases signs and symptoms clear up on their own within a short period. 

If any of the following signs or symptoms accompanies a back pain you should see your doctor:

  • Weight loss
  • Elevated body temperature (fever)
  • Inflammation (swelling) on the back
  • Persistent back pain - lying down or resting does not help
  • Pain down the legs
  • Pain reaches below the knees
  • A recent injury, blow or trauma to your back
  • Urinary incontinence - you pee unintentionally (even small amounts)
  • Difficulty urinating - passing urine is hard
  • Fecal incontinence - you lose your bowel control (you poo unintentionally)
  • Numbness around the genitals
  • Numbness around the anus
  • Numbness around the buttocks.
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