Suffering from back pain can be a frustrating experience, as even the slightest pain can be persistent and throw our days into chaos. Almost every activity we do, whether it is working, exercising, watching TV, or even sleeping suddenly becomes a struggle to get comfortable and stay focused. How to deal with this pain depends heavily on what the cause of it is, so in this blog, we’re going to look at what different pains in parts of your back can mean.
The majority of cases of back pain occur in the lower back, the region below the bottom of the ribcage. As this is one of the most anatomically diverse regions in the body, with lots of bones, muscles, ligaments, joints, and tendons, there are a lot of potential causes of pain in this area. One of the most common is a lumbar strain, which is when the muscles, ligaments, and/or tendons in the lower back are stretched either suddenly or over time. Lumbar pain is often described as a localised discomfort, which can range from mild to severe pain, and is usually at its worst after physical activity.
Nerve irritation is another common causes, and can be brought on by anything that reduces the amount of free space around the nerve. This could occur because of bony encroachment, where the movement or growth of the vertebrae reduces the amount of space surrounding a nerve, or because an infection causes the nerve to become inflamed, for example. Conditions like these are usually characterised by a dull ache that gets worse with movement, but they can also lead to sciatica. Sciatica is a common condition where pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness can radiate down the sciatic nerve from the lower back all the way to the feet.
Of course, back pain can also originate in the bones, with different issues manifesting very different symptoms. A congenital condition, such as scoliosis, can lead to various types of pain, but will often be diagnosed in the early stages. A fracture on the other hand can come on suddenly, and brings with it a sharp, severe “stabbing” sensation. In cases like these, time is often the best treatment. Then there are conditions such as osteoporosis, where our bones lose density. While they should not be seen as inevitable, these are often conditions a person will have to learn to live with for the rest of their lives, and may require the use of various medications.
The region between the neck and the bottom of the rib cage, often referred to as either the upper or upper-middle back, is far less susceptible to back pain the the lower back. Usually, pain that occurs in this region is due to a long-term problem, such as poor posture. Conditions like fibromyalgia, which causes widespread musculoskeletal pain, can sometimes be to blame, but in most cases you will find that it is lifestyle choices carried out over a number of years that has led to the pain. This can result from an improper sitting posture from someone with a sedentary lifestyle, improper lifting techniques in those who carried out manual labour for most of their lives, or any kind of overuse injury, which could be brought on by years of playing a particular sport.
Since most upper-back pain is a result of long-term issues, long-term solutions are often needed to treat it. This often means making lifestyle changes, such as to your sitting or sleeping position, taking medication such as painkillers, and undergoing a particular physical regime, such as getting regular massages or undergoing physiotherapy.
The back is a complex feature of human anatomy, and arguably one of the most significant areas of our bodies. It’s not surprising, therefore, that we will all experience pain there from time to time. In the majority of cases, this pain is nothing to be overly concerned about, but if you notice a sudden or new type of back pain, it is better to err on the side of caution and get it checked out. If you are not currently experiencing back pain, then plan for the future with our blog on why we should make the effort to sit up straight.