Back Pain

man with backache.jpg

BACK PAIN

 

 

What is back pain?

 

Definition

Low back pain is pain, muscle tension, or stiffness localised below the rib cage and above the buttocks, with or without leg pain (sciatica). It can be acute or chronic (persisting for 12 weeks or more).

Incidence

In 1998 40% of adults - more than 16 million people had back pain lasting more than one day. Each year, 15-45% of adults suffer low backache. Low back pain is most common between the ages of 35 and 55.

Causes

In about 85 per cent of people pain is non-specific. About 4% of people seen with low back pain in primary care have compression fractures and 1% have tumours. Other causes include slipped discs or osteoporosis.

Risk factors

Heavy lifting, frequent bending, pulling, twisting and pushing, repetitive work, static postures, vibrations, poor posture.

Psycho-social risk factors include anxiety, depression, job dissatisfaction, and mental stress at work.

Warning Signs

See your physician immediately if you have:

  • Unexplained fever or swelling/redness on the back or spine
  • Pain that travels down the legs below the knees
  • Weakness or numbness in one or both legs
  • Loss of control of the bowel or bladder

 

See your physician if you have:

  • Back pain that lasts longer than a week
  • You have a persistent pain after a severe blow, fall or injury

 

Examination & Investigations

A persistent or severe back pain with any of the above warning signs must be assessed and diagnosed by a medical doctor. Examination will involve looking for general signs of disease, muscle weakness, range of movement and any evidence of neurological damage. In the majority of cases investigations are not usually required. Additional tests might include x-rays, CT scan, MRI scan or a myelogram.

Prognosis

Acute back pain is usually self-limiting (90% of people recover within 6 months), but 2-7% of people develop chronic pain.

 

Conventional Treatment Strategies for Acute Lower Back Pain:

 

Beneficial :

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories; keep active.

Likely to be beneficial :

Simple analgesics, spinal manipulation (osteopathy, chiropractic).

Possibly of benefit :

Muscle relaxants e.g. diazepam.

Unknown effectiveness :

Colchicine, antidepressants, epidural steroid injections, EMG feedback, behavioural therapy, lumbar supports, TENS.

 

Complementary & Alternative Strategies

 

Find a professional, fully trained therapist?

 

Nutritional therapy is using diet to treat and prevent illness, and to restore the body to a natural, healthy equilibrium. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and try to reduce animal fats, sugar, salt, tea and coffee.

Consider supplements such as evening primrose, starflower, vitamin C and calcium.

 

Western Herbalism

Herbal therapy is the use of plants as medicines to restore and maintain health by keeping the body balanced.

Condition Herb

 

 

General Pain relief Drink infusions of white willow or vervain

 

 

Inflammation BromelainSt Johns wort

 

 

Muscle relaxant Valerian

 

 

Muscle and Joint pain Massage oil of wintergreen into the muscles and joints.

 

 

Always consult with a qualified herbalist prior to use.

 

Homeopathy

 

Homeopathy is a form of medicine that treats the body as a whole and helps it to heal itself.

 

Condition Homeopathic Remedy

 

 

Sore/bruised muscles Try arnica tincture/ointment

 

 

Muscle strain Rhus tox

 

 

Persistent backache Ruta

 

 

Always consult with a qualified homeopath prior to use.

 

Psycho-social Strategies

 

Meditation

 

Meditation encompasses various contemplative practices, ranging from spiritual to ritual dances and movements. It can be effective in relieving chronic pain associated with stress.

 

Visualisation

 

Visualisation is based on the belief that the brain has a subconscious ability to heal. It focuses on using imagination to create attractive and positive images that can be used to heal or change aspects of your life. It is suitable for almost any type of physical or emotional pain related problem.

 

Progressive Muscular Relaxation

 

Relaxation is a state of physical and mental relief, where tension, fear and anxiety are released and replaced with calm and peaceful feelings. Progressive rhythmical breathing to relax muscles is useful as part of a pain management programme.

 

Biofeedback

 

Biofeedback is a system in which electronic instruments provide information about the body that might not otherwise be immediately obvious.

 

Flotation and Sensory Deprivation

 

A flotation tank is an enclosed chamber in which the patient floats in water at skin temperature and in total darkness and silence. There is some evidence that this might stimulate the release of the body's natural painkillers, endorphins.

 

Psychotherapy

 

Psychotherapy is an umbrella term to describe a number of approaches focused on providing mental and emotional support to an individual or group. Particularly benefits those with painful disorders caused by deep underlying emotional or psychological problems.

 

Hypnotherapy

 

Hypnotherapy is a form of psychotherapy that works on the subconscious to change thought and behaviour patterns. It is suitable for psychosomatic disorders and stress-related conditions.

 

Autogenic Training

 

Autogenic training is a system of self-hypnosis that uses mental exercises to switch off the stress reactions of the body with restful, relaxed states. It is effective for relieving the pain from stress-related disorders.

 

Energy Strategies

Acupuncture

Acupuncture refers to the painless insertion of fine needles into the skin to stimulate specific points called acupoints. It is based on the traditional Chinese theory that pain and illness are the result of excess or deficient energy in the affected part of the body.

 

Acupuncturists use these needles on special points within the meridians (energy channels) to correct the imbalances in the energy flow and thus relieve pain and illness. Acupuncture is particularly effective at easing chronic pain and stress-related conditions.

 

Acupressure

Similar to acupuncture the trained acupressure therapist administers gentle pressure to the acupuncture points. It is useful in the treatment of headaches and migraines,back pain and sports injuries.

 

Kinesiology

Kinesiology aims to identify muscular imbalances that can result in poor posture and pain. It is effective in treating inflammatory joint conditions, headaches, migraine and neuralgia.

 

Magnet Therapy

Magnet therapy is based on the theory that each of the body's cells acts like a magnetic dynamo generating a unique magnetic field. In the presence of disease these tiny electromagnetic fields fall out of alignment and by applying magnets to the affected part of the body, the electromagnetic field is realigned to promote and maintain homeostasis (balance within the body).

It has been particularly effective in the treatment of musculo-skeletal pain conditions, fibromyalgia and sports injuries. (See also Magnetic Therapy).

 

Reflexology

Reflexology involves applying pressure to points on the feet called 'reflex zone' in order to stimulate the body's own healing system and relieve pain in other parts of the body. It is particularly suited for generalised disorders and stress-related problems.

 

Reiki

Reiki aims to re-balance the energy in the body to stimulate the body's natural healing systems and achieve greater well-being. It is usually used in conjunction with other techniques as part of a pain management programme.

 

Shiatsu

Shiatsu is a Japanese therapy based on the belief that stimulating points on the surface of the body can influence the functioning of organs deep inside. Useful for conditions such as headaches and migraines, musculoskeletal disorders and bowel disorders.

 

Therapeutic Touch

Therapeutic touch describes the "laying on of hands' and is based on the belief that there is an actual transfer of healing energy from the person touching to the person being touched. Used as an adjunct treatment it might be useful for neck and back pain, irritable bowel syndrome and during childbirth.

 

Zero Balancing

Zero balancing combines methods to restore balance to the body's energy fields with various bodywork techniques. Useful therapy for neck/back pain and stress-related disorders.

 

Structural Therapies

 

Massage

Massage is the manipulation of the body's soft tissues with specific techniques to promote or restore health. It may help to relieve muscular pain as well as releasing muscular tension and stress.

 

Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy oils are distilled from a variety of plants believed to have healing properties. Essential oils can act either by inhalation or by penetration via the skin. It can help to alleviate muscular tension and chronic neck/back pain.

 

Exercise

Gentle exercise such as walking, jogging and cycling are better for back problems than rest. Hydrotherapy, swimming combined with a sauna or steam bath, is excellent for relieving back pain.

 

Alexander Technique

The Alexander Technique is a system of postural re-education. Although predominantly a preventative technique it can also be effective in relieving pain caused by musculoskeletal problems such as recurrent sports-related disorders.

 

Feldenkrais

Feldenkrais is a system of movement and postural retraining, particularly effective for recurrent muscle and joint pain.

 

Pilates

Pilates is a system of rehabilitation through non-weight bearing or non-impact exercise. Particularly beneficial for rehabilitation after surgery/illness, arthritis and lower back pain.

 

Yoga

Yoga is beneficial for both chronic pain and as part of a therapeutic programme for patients suffering from stress-related disorders.

 

Chiropractic

Chiropractic is based on the theory that pain is caused by some dysfunction of the musculoskeletal system. The treatment involves manipulation of the body joints in order to restore normal nerve function and alleviate pain. Useful for sciatica, back pain, joint injuries and headaches.

 

Osteopathy

Osteopathy is a manipulative therapy that works on the body's structure to relieve pain, improve mobility and restore well-being. It differs from chiropractic by tending to focus on the limbs and trunk to improve movement of the joint. Particularly effective for neck/back pain, neuralgia, sports injuries and shoulder/arm/leg pains.

 

Rolfing

Rolfing is a type of deep-tissue manipulation that stretches and manipulates the connective tissues to restore the body's balance, improve posture and consequently the body's all-round physical and emotional benefits. Good for pain related to poor posture as well as chronic back and limb pain.

 

Find a professional, fully trained therapist?

Does a ketogenic diet impair athletic performance?

Does a ketogenic diet impair athletic performance?

A low-carbohydrate, high-fat (LCHF) or “ketogenic” diet has
grown in popularity due to its ability to increase the rate of fat

Study reveals dietary factors associated with mental health

The effects of COVID-19 on our companion dogs - By Lisa Hird MCMA

News

Following a plant-based diet could help decrease the severity of COVID-19, according to a new major study published in the BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health journal. The study investigated links between the disease and different dietary patterns.

A new study led by the Centre for Nutraceuticals at the University of Westminster shows that pink drinks can help to make you run faster and further compared to clear drinks.

It is estimated that up to 152 million people worldwide will be living with Alzheimer's disease (AD) by 2050. Thus far, there are no pharmaceutical drugs that impact either the prevention or reversal of cognitive decline.

National and international guidelines recommend replacing the amount of time spent being sedentary with physical activity to improve health. This message is especially important in the face of COVID-19, as overall sedentary behaviors have increased substantially.

The COMPLEMENTARY MEDICAL ASSOCIATION (The CMA) © 2012. No part of this site may be reproduced without the express permission of The Complementary Medical Association. If used without prior consent a charge of US $1,000 per article, or mini section is paid (US $50 per word (minimum) will be charged. This is not meant to reflect a commercial rate for the content, but as a punitive cost and to reimburse The CMA for legal fees and time costs). Use of the contents, without permission will be taken as consent to bill the illegal user in full.