Individuals over the age of 50 are likely to suffer from pain related to degeneration of the joints in the spine. My mother has complained several times of back ache and I sometimes wonder what the cause could be. The pains, from the look on her face could be severe, so much so that I began to imagine what she could be going through as an old aged man. My mother’s condition led me to read up about the causes of back pain and what can be done to alleviate the condition.
From my readings I learnt that the common causes of back pain in adults include nerve irritation, lumber radiculopathy, bone encroachment, conditions of the bone and joints, inflammation of the joints of the spine, osteoarthritis, and various uncommon bone
disorders, tumours, infections and pressure from structures near to the spine.
Please, see below for the explanations of all these technical/medical terms. I did not understand them myself until I read up further from
A lumbar strain is a stretch injury to the ligaments, tendons, or muscles of the low back. The stretching incident results in microscopic tears of varying degrees in these tissues. Lumbar strain is considered one of the most common causes of low back pain. The injury can occur because of overuse, improper use, or trauma. Soft-tissue injury is commonly classified as “acute” if it has been present for days or weeks. If the strain lasts longer than three months, it is referred to as “chronic.” Lumbar strain most often occurs mostly after 40s, but it can happen at any age. The condition is characterized by localized discomfort in the low back area with onset after an event that mechanically stressed the lumbar tissues. The severity of the injury ranges from mild to severe, depending on the degree of strain and resulting spasms of the muscles of the low back. The diagnosis of lumbar strain is based on the history of injury, the location of the pain, and exclusion of nervous system injury. Usually, X-ray testing is only helpful to exclude bone abnormalities. The treatment of lumbar strain consists of resting the back (to avoid injury), medications to relieve pain and muscle spasm, local heat applications, massage, and eventual (after the acute episode resolves) reconditioning exercises to strengthen the low back and abdominal muscles.
The nerves of the lumbar spine can be irritated by mechanical pressure (impingement) by bone or other tissues, or from disease, anywhere along their paths, from their roots at the spinal cord to the skin surface. These conditions include lumbar disc disease, bone encroachment, and inflammation of the nerves caused by a viral infection.
Lumbar radiculopathy is nerve irritation that is caused by damage to the discs between the vertebrae. Damage to the disc occurs because of degeneration of the outer ring of the disc, traumatic injury, or both. As a result, the central softer portion of the disc can rupture through the outer ring of the disc and abut the spinal cord or its nerves as they exit the bony spinal column. This rupture is what causes the commonly recognized “sciatica” pain of a herniated disc that shoots from the low back and buttock down the leg. Sciatica can be preceded by a history of localized low-back aching or it can follow a “popping” sensation and be accompanied by numbness and tingling. The pain commonly increases with movements at the waist and can increase with coughing or sneezing. In more severe instances, sciatica can be accompanied by incontinence of the bladder and/or bowels.
Any condition that results in movement or growth of the vertebrae of the lumbar spine can limit the space (encroachment) for the adjacent spinal cord and nerves. Causes of bone encroachment of the spinal nerves include foramina narrowing (narrowing of the portal through which the spinal nerve passes from the spinal column, out of the spinal canal to the body, commonly as a result of arthritis), spondylolisthesis (slippage of one vertebra relative to another), and spinal stenosis (compression of the nerve roots or spinal cord by bony spurs or other soft tissues in the spinal canal). Spinal-nerve compression in these conditions can lead to sciatica pain that radiates down the lower extremities. Spinal stenosis can cause lower extremity pains that worsen with walking and are relieved by resting. Treatment of these afflictions varies, depending on their severity, and ranges from rest, and exercises to epidural cortisone injections and surgical decompression by removing the bone that is compressing the nervous tissue. (Source: www.medicineNet).
Possible Treatment for back pain
Back pain makes it hard to stand or sit straight. Stretching and exercising the lower back can reduce the pain. Although there are several treatments for alleviating back pain, recent researches reveal that the following methods can work well to relieve back pain.
Change sleeping position: Some people develop back pain from their sleeping position. Changing your sleeping position can take some of the strain off your back and ease the pain. If you sleep on your side, draw your legs up slightly towards your chest and put a pillow between your legs. If you sleep on your back, placing a pillow under your knees will help maintain the normal curve of your lower back. Create time to relax: A lot of people don’t find time to relax. But when dealing with somebody with back aches, relaxation is a crucial part of easing the pain because muscle tension caused by worrying about your condition can make things worse.
Always Exercise: Exercise is very important whether you are suffering from back pain or not. You should try to address the causes of your back pain to prevent further episode. Common causes include being overweight, poor posture and stress. Regular exercise and being active on a daily basis will help keep your back strong and healthy. Activities such as walking, and swimming are popular choices. The important thing is to choose an enjoyable activity that you can benefit from without feeling pain. The exercise should be to strengthen your muscles and improve your posture.
Surgery: Surgery for back pain is usually recommended when all other
treatments have failed to work.
BY MAIMUNA BAGUDU