Back Pain

Back pain is a common cause of absence from work that affects approximately 80% of the American population, at different stages of their life. Back pain is more common in individuals between 35 to 55 years of age.

Lower back pain may be related to the functional impairment of different organs and tissues such as lumbar spine, intervertebral disc, ligament around the spine and disc, spinal cord and nerves, attached muscles, surrounding skin and internal organs. Pain in the upper back may be secondary to tumours in the chest, disorders of the aorta, and inflammation of the thoracic spine.

The common risks factors for back pain include:

  • Mental stress
  • Conditions such as pregnancy
  • Age- elder people are more susceptible
  • Behavioural disorders such as anxiety and depression
  • Gender – more common in females as compared to males
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Arduous physical work
  • Sedentary lifestyle

The common causes of back pain include:

  • Stress on muscles and ligaments
  • Lifting heavy weight
  • Structural disorders such as ruptured disks, bulging disc, sciatica, arthritis, osteoporosis, and abnormal curvature of the spine
  • Poor posture
  • Trauma or infection of the spine
  • Cancer of the spine

The diagnosis of back pain includes physical examination and a medical history of the patient. In some cases, imaging techniques such as X-rays, MRI scan, CT scan, bone scan and electromyography or EMG may also be ordered.

In a majority of cases, back pain is relieved without medication; by rest. In cases where rest alone is not very beneficial, the doctor may recommend the following treatment options:

  • Medications such as painkillers and narcotics
  • Physical therapy
  • Cortisone injection
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
  • Complementary therapies such as acupuncture, acupressure, chiropractic and osteopathy
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
  • Surgery employing required procedures such as fusion, artificial disk, discectomy and partial removal of vertebra
  • Westmead Private Hospital
  • Neuro Surgical Society
  • the University of Sydney