If all those advertisements of backache-relief balms, creams and sprays are anything to go by, lower backache is one of the most common conditions afflicting people in daily life. While the intensity might range from mild discomfort to seriously debilitating pain, it’s important to figure out the cause and of the backache and then go about rectifying it.
Top 10 causes of lower backache
- Bad posture – We are all guilty of bad posture at some point or another in our daily lives. Sitting incorrectly at your work desk or computer, slouching on the couch while watching television and twisting your back awkwardly while sitting, standing or walking can all produce a strain on the back. This strain manifests as low backache.
- Obesity – This lifestyle disease is affecting countless Indians and the clock is ticking. Putting on weight stresses your spine and back muscles by making them work excessively to lug around those extra kilos. In the long run, lower backache will occur as the body groans and can’t take the extra weight anymore.
- Incorrect exercising – Exercises that work out your biceps and back and shoulder muscles are commonly done by many gym-goers. It’s when you do these exercises incorrectly that you strain your back which further leads to backache. Hence it is important to work out under a certified fitness instructor or trainer who will pay attention to you as you exercise. Incorrectly exercising can put you back on your fitness and weight loss program so keep this in mind and protect your back.
- Bad furniture – The chair you sit on for eight hours while at work, the mattress on your bed and the firmness of your sofa; if incorrect; can put pressure on the lower back directly. Therefore it is very important to spend adequate time when choosing furniture and buying good quality stuff. Cheaply made furniture may be well within your budget but may not be as good for your spine.
Vertebral abnormalities – Lumbar spondylosis, spondylolisthesis and ankylosing spondylitis are all due to some abnormal fusion of the spine. This occurs mainly in the lower back and is a common cause of lower backache in the middle aged and elderly population. Another possibility is when the lumbar and sacral vertebra below it fuse. In medical terms, this is called sacralisation of the lumbar vertebrae.
- Tuberculosis of the spine – In our country, where tuberculosis is still a significant public health problem, the infection may also spread to the spine and the person may complain of pain depending on the location of the infection. The lumbosacral region or the lower back is usually affected.
- Fracture of the spine – This may occur due to trauma or osteoporosis. Any fracture of the lower spine will cause lower back pain, which may radiate to on or both legs.
- Sciatica – This is a common condition involving one or both sciatic nerves (these are nerves that start from the lower spinal canal and go at the back of the thigh to each leg). The sciatic nerve is one of the largest in the body and if it gets pinched where it leaves the spinal canal it may cause symptoms like low back pain which radiates down the leg. The pain can be excruciating at times and can make the person incapable of performing his day-to-day activities.
- Disc prolapse – Commonly known as `slipped disc’, this acute condition leads to severe back pain. Slipped disc is common in the lower back as it takes on the extra load during weight bearing. The pain is due to the abnormal position of the cushiony disc in between two vertebrae which presses on the spinal cord.
- Tumours – Benign or malignant growths involving the lower spine may originate in the spine or spread from other parts of the body. As this weakens the spine, it will lead to lower backache.
Apart from the above, lower back pain could be due to your occupation; studies have found a higher incidence in dentists, surgeons, miners and truck drivers. Back pain is not common in children, and if persistent, should be thoroughly investigated. Also, gynaecological problems and disorders of the urinary tract like stones in the kidney or ureter should be considered while investigating the cause of low back pain.
Written by Dr Nisreen Nakhoda, General Physician
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