Blackmores back pain

Back pain

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Around 80% of people living in Western countries experience back pain at some time in their lives.

Symptoms

Common back problems and their symptoms include:

  • Muscle tension: Pain and stiffness
  • Poor Posture: Aches and pains of the back and other body parts, muscle fatigue, rounded shoulders, knees that are bent when standing or walking, protrusion of the abdomen (pot belly), head tilted forwards or backwards, headaches.
  • Sprains and strains: Pain, stiffness, and reduced movement.
  • Osteoarthritis: Pain, stiffness.
  • Sciatica: Pain that follows the path of the sciatic nerve in the buttock, leg or foot, which may be aggravated when coughing or straining (e.g. lifting heavy objects). Pins and needles may occur, and the muscles of the leg and foot may become weak.
  • Osteoporosis: Usually asymptomatic, but predisposes the vertebrae (and other bones) to fractures, which may cause back pain, a gradual loss of height often with a stooped back (Dowager’s hump), and muscle weakness.

Causes

You are more likely to experience back problems if you are overweight, or if your back is lacking in strength, flexibility and tone. In general, living a sedentary or unhealthy lifestyle may be a key contributor to back issues. Additional causes may include:

  • Muscle tension: Often caused by physical or mental stress.
  • Posture-related problems: Poor posture forces muscles to be used incorrectly, which makes them tire quickly, causing muscle fatigue. Over time, the muscles that should be supporting posture become weaker and weaker.
  • Sprains and strains:  Sprains and strains occur if the fibres of a muscle, ligament or tendon are stretched beyond their capacity, and tear. This is often due to a sudden twisting or stretching movement, a forceful impact, or overuse of a particular joint or muscle group.
  • Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis can cause back pain. General risk factors for osteoarthritis include getting older, being overweight or obese, a history of injury or trauma to the affected joint, and participation in sports or occupations that involve repetitive stress to the affected joint.
  • Sciatica: Sciatica occurs if a disc between two vertebrae bulges or ruptures, putting pressure on the sciatic nerve. Osteoarthritis and other conditions affecting the lower spine may also cause sciatic pain by narrowing the space available for the nerve to travel through.
  • Osteoporosis: Osteoporosis occurs when the bones lose calcium more quickly than it can be replaced, eventually leading to a decline in the density and mass of the bones, which makes them more susceptible to fracture. Women become particularly susceptible after menopause due to declining oestrogen levels.

Natural therapies

  • Devil’s claw is traditionally used for its analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties, and may provide temporary relief of symptoms of muscle tension, stiffness and decreased mobility associated with back pain and other musculoskeletal complaints. Devil’s claw may also aid the management of back pain caused by osteoarthritis by helping to reduce the intake of some pain relief medications, and may help to improve spine mobility and flexibility in people with chronic back problems.
  • Glucosamine is the major building block of aggrecan, a compound that’s responsible for the resilience and shock-absorbing properties of cartilage. Glucosamine helps reduce cartilage wear and shows the progressive deterioration of the joints. It may be beneficial for back problems associated with osteoarthritis, as it has been shown to slow the progression of joint damage, decrease joint stiffness, and improve joint mobility and function. In osteoarthritis, it reduces symptoms of pain, swelling and joint inflammation, and has been shown to be as effective as some pain-relieving medications for the long-term relief of symptoms.
  • The omega-3 fatty acids, have anti-inflammatory properties and may help reduce the pain, swelling and joint stiffness of arthritis while supporting optimal joint mobility.
  • Magnesium is important for healthy bone strength and bone mineral density. It also helps all the muscles of the body to function optimally and to contract in a normal, healthy way. Taking a magnesium supplement may help prevent muscular spasms. It may be taken with other nutrients, such as folic acid and vitamins C and B12.
  • Taking calcium supplements may be of assistance in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis.  Look for a product containing a combination of calcium compounds - calcium phosphate, calcium citrate and calcium amino acid chelate for improved absorption. Vitamins D3 and K1, as well as magnesium, phosphate and other minerals should also be present to aid the absorption and function of calcium.
  • Vitamin D3 promotes the absorption of calcium and phosphate and makes them available for use by the skeleton. Having low levels of vitamin D is an established risk factor for falls, and increased falls may increase the risk of fractures. In older people, taking vitamin D3 leads to improved muscle strength, and this helps reduce the incidence of falls.

Diet and lifestyle

  • Many back problems resolve themselves fairly quickly. However, severe, persistent or recurrent back problems should be investigated and diagnosed by your healthcare professional. Follow any treatment recommendations closely, and be diligent about performing any corrective exercises that are prescribed.
  • Often, the most important step you can take is to return to your normal work, exercise and recreational activities.
  • Physiotherapy or other manipulative therapies (such as massage, chiropractic and osteopathy) may aid flexibility, strength and healing. Your practitioner can also advise you about postural issues and whether the use of hot and/or cold packs is appropriate in your individual circumstances.
  • Adopting good posture can help to relieve and prevent back problems. Take care not to slouch in your car or at your desk, and avoid sitting or standing for long periods without a break. Using a lumbar support cushion or a footstool may be beneficial.
  • Take care to perform any strenuous activity safely, especially if your work involves repetitive movements or lifting heavy weights. Follow appropriate health and safety guidelines at all times, and make sure you always lift loads safely. Use a trolley where you can, or ask another person to help you.
  • Losing weight may help to take the pressure off your back and other joints.
  • Low impact aerobic exercise (e.g. walking and swimming) and strength-building exercise (e.g. weight training) may help to reduce pain and prevent it recurring. Exercise regimes that build your core strength (such as Pilates and yoga) may also be beneficial. However, don’t start a new exercise regime or recommence your previous one without the approval of your healthcare professional.
  • Stop any exercise session that causes excessive or unusual pain.
  • Include plenty of omega-3 oils in your diet in order to take advantage of their anti-inflammatory properties. Good sources include fish (and fish oil capsules), flaxseed oil, canola oil, and walnuts.
  • Dairy foods are the most important source of calcium in most people’s diets. Unless you’re allergic to milk or lactose, try to include several serves of low fat dairy foods in your diet every day in order to reduce your risk of osteoporosis. Other important sources of calcium include tinned salmon and sardines (eat the soft bones, which are rich in calcium), soy milk fortified with extra calcium, broccoli, beans and almonds.
  • Make sure you expose around 15% of your body to the sun (for example your hands, face and arms) 4-6 times per week for 6-8 minutes in order to obtain vitamin D. Older people should expose themselves to sunlight more frequently (5-6 times a week), and people with dark skin should expose themselves for a longer period of around 15 minutes. Early morning or late afternoon sunlight is best; avoid sun exposure during the heat of the day, when sun-related skin damage is most likely to occur.
  • Stop smoking, as it increases your risk of experiencing osteoporosis, sciatica and other back problems, including disk degeneration in the lumbar spine.
  • Learning to manage your stress levels may help you cope and can also aid muscle relaxation. Try relaxation classes or meditation.
  • Sleep on a mattress that is firm, but not too soft or too hard. Don’t sleep on your stomach.

Important notes

  • If back pain is severe or persistent, consult your healthcare professional. It is essential that any problem be accurately diagnosed so that appropriate treatment can be commenced as quickly as possible.
  • See your doctor if your back pain:
    • Is severe, and becomes worse over time rather than better
    • Is accompanied by fever, a general feeling of being unwell, or difficulty passing urine
    • Is accompanied by numbness or tingling in the genital region, around the anus, or in the legs
    • Is accompanied by a lack of balance or feeling unstable when standing or walking