Irritation or damage to any area of the back muscles, structures or spine can cause back pain. It commonly occurs in the lower back. The spine consists of many bones called vertebrae, which are joined together. Each vertebrae has a bony joint called a facet joint and between each pair of vertebrae lies a disc, which acts as a cushion and provides shock absorption. Muscles and ligaments assist to provide stability to the spine What causes back pain? Back pain is usually caused by an injury to the back such as overstretching during lifting, bending or twisting. This may result in damage to muscles, ligaments or the discs. Back pain is common and affects most people at some time in their life.
Factors that can contribute to back pain include: • Bad work practices and lifting techniques • Poor posture • Being overweight • Lack of exercise • Pregnancy • Stress • Smoking.
If significant nerve damage is suspected, tests such as a CT scan or MRI might be ordered. Patients with severe injuries may need to see an orthopaedic surgeon or neurosurgeon for further treatment. This may include injections or, in extreme cases, surgery (an operation).
Most back pain tends to improve within a few days to a few weeks, and a therapist such as a physiotherapist, chiropractor or osteopath can assist with exercises, advice and treatment. Bulging discs and pinched nerves may take longer to heal. Few people require surgery.
Home care In the first two to three days you should aim to minimise pain and assist healing.
Signs to Look out for:
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