How minor back damage can lead to serious issues in later life
Minor back problems are quite common, with most adults having some form of back issue in their lifetime. While your back is uniquely constructed to be flexible and support your body, injury, overuse and plain everyday wear and tear can take its toll over time.
Causes of back problems
A back problem can develop for a variety of reasons, and is a symptom rather than a diagnosis itself. Some back pain is the result of how your spine moves overall, or the way it feels when it moves in certain ways. The most common of these mechanical problems is disc degeneration. As you age, the discs between your vertebrae begin to lose their shock-absorbing ability, resulting in pain when the back is over-stressed. The large joints between the vertebrae, the facet joints, also wear over time and this can cause back pain.
Many conditions and diseases can be the cause of back pain. Scoliosis, commonly referred to as curvature of the spine, can result in varying degrees of back pain. Various types of arthritis, including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, can lead to chronic back pain. Ankylosing spondylitis, a type of arthritis that specifically affects the spine, can cause pain and stiffness starting at the base of the spine and moving upward. It often starts around the sacroiliac joint, affecting the hips and legs as well. Sometimes the spine can become rigid as the vertebrae fuse together. Osteoporosis, the weakening of the bones, can result in fractures in the vertebrae that can be extremely painful.
Injuries, including sprains and strains, can cause back pain of varying degrees. Sprains are tears in the ligaments that can result from twisting too far or too quickly, or can occur when you lift something improperly. These ligaments support the spine and surrounding muscles and when sprained can cause severe back pain in the short-term, and sometimes lingering chronic pain afterward.
Strains typically occur in the lower back, and they are one of the top causes of back pain in general. A strain affects the muscles in the back and results from you stretching them too far, causing tiny tears in the muscle tissue. The weakened muscles may cause the spine to go out of alignment, causing stress, inflammation and pain. Falling, repetitively bending or crouching, improperly lifting heavy objects or over-stressing the muscles physically can cause low back pain. Low back pain can also result from relatively minor causes, such as improper posture, sitting in the same position for too long, being out of shape or overweight, and even emotional stress.
Effects of back pain on your life
Back pain can have a variety of effects on your quality of life. Physically, of course, chronic back pain of any degree can limit your professional life, making it difficult to complete tasks at work. If the injury is caused by repetitive movements, such as lifting or turning, then working may continue to injure the back, or at least keep it from healing completely. A sedentary working position, such as sitting at a desk, can also stress the back, resulting in a cycle of pain and discomfort as you try to do your job while living with back pain.
Living with back pain can also have a profoundly limiting effect on your social and personal life. The physical pain can keep you from participating in sports and hobbies that require you to be flexible and active, affecting not only you but also your friends and family. With the physical limitations come emotional side effects, including depression, anxiety and irritability.
Caring for your back as you age
For chronic pain, a number of options are available to help ease discomfort and care for your back. Medications, including pain relievers, can help make it easier to complete tasks and maintain a healthy and active lifestyle, which will help control the back pain. Physiotherapy, such as chiropractic care from HealthQuest, is a non-surgical way to treat back pain, but the key to preserving your back’s flexibility and reducing the limitation of chronic back pain is to begin caring for your back early in life. This includes exercising, eating a balanced and nutritious diet, and maintaining good posture and physical habits, such as lifting safely and breaking up repetitive motion.
Minor back issues may be a common ailment for most adults, but you do not have to allow them to affect your life in a negative way. Understanding the root of your back pain and taking steps to care for your back and prevent further injury will help you to avoid more serious issues as you age.