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 Back Pain  Holistic-online.com

What Is Back Pain?

Most people suffer from back pain at some point in their lives.

Human spinal column is an extraordinary mechanism, providing the stability we use to stand upright and the flexibility we need for active movement. The spine, also known as backbone, is actually a stack of 24 individual bones called vertebrae. A healthy spine is S-shaped when viewed from the side, curving back at the shoulders and inward at the neck and small of the back. Spine houses the spinal cord-the intricate sensory network that runs through the vertebrae to transmit feeling and control movement throughout the entire body.

The main reason we suffer from back problems is that we are increasingly becoming sedentary creatures. The upright posture is designed for walking. Today, a high proportion of people spend the better part of their working day sitting at desks, at work stations, or in cars and trucks. These changes in human behavior have had a profound-and largely negative- impact on human physiology.

Women are very vulnerable to back pain. Childbearing and child rearing put a heavy load on women's backs. During the last two trimesters of pregnancy, the fetus can shift the center of gravity of women's back. This alters the curve of their spine, resulting in back pain. Soon after pregnancy and when children are toddlers, women experience back pain from bending and lifting. Women have two-thirds the muscle mass as compared to men of same size. This means that women need more muscle power to do the same work. We generally do not think about the implication of what we routinely do. Most of us are careful when we lift weights or heavy objects. But we won't think of much when we pick up a toddler and a 10-pound bag of groceries while still carrying a briefcase crammed with books and papers. (Add up the weight.) This puts severe strain on the back-muscles. 

Causes

Back problems are mostly self-inflicted. Most of our back troubles happen because of bad habits, generally developed over a long period of time: poor posture: overexertion in work and play; sitting incorrectly at the desk or the steering wheel; pushing, pulling, and lifting things carelessly. Sometimes the effects are immediate, but in many cases back problems develop over time. The most common type of back pain comes from straining the bands of muscles surrounding the spine. Although such strains can occur anywhere along the spine, they happen most often in the curve of the lower back; the next most common place is at the base of the neck.

Herniated diskFor many years, it was assumed that back pain was the result of spinal degeneration or injury, especially damage to the intervertebral disks. These are structures located between the vertebrae that act as cushions. Each disk consists of a tough, fibrous outer layer surrounding a soft interior that provides the cushioning. With the ordinary wear and tear of living, the disks show signs of aging and may be injured. When a disk begins to degenerate, a strain-even something as small as a sneeze-can cause the disk to rupture, or herniate, allowing the soft interior material to protrude out of the disk and press against the spinal cord.

A herniated disk can cause severe intermittent or constant back pain. However, disk disease are not the main cause of back pain. That is because most adults past the age of forty-whether they experience back pain or not--have some degree of disk degeneration. In most instances, disk degeneration and even herniation do not produce any symptoms of back pain.

It is now believed that the leading cause of back pain is simple muscle strain. Symptoms may come on suddenly and can be acutely painful; but back pain, in actuality, develops over a long period of time. When muscles contract, lactic acid and pyruvic acid are produced as byproducts of muscular activity. It is the lactic acid in the muscles that produces the sensation of muscle fatigue following strenuous activity. If high levels of these acidic byproducts accumulate in the muscles, they cause irritation that can eventually turn into pain and interfere with the normal conduction of electrical impulses in the muscle tissue. This results in a phenomenon called delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Problems with acidic buildup are often made worse by dehydration.

In most cases, the back pain has an associated psychological component. It could be a deep-seated emotional or stress-related problem. 

The factors that contribute to back pain include:

Poor posture

Improper footwear and walking habits

Improper lifting, lifting heavy objects

Straining individual muscles

Calcium deficiency

Slouching when sitting

Prolonged sitting, especially in a chair that does not adequately support the back

Sleeping on a mattress that is too soft

Kidney, bladder, and prostate problems

Stress

Pregnancy

Female pelvic disorders

Constipation may produce back pain

Arthritis

Rheumatism

Bone disease

Abnormal curvature of the spine

Types of back pain Fractures are rarely the cause of back pain. Sometimes backache occurs for no apparent reason. They may develop from weakened muscles that cannot handle everyday walking, bending, and stretching. In other cases, the discomfort seems to come from, or is aggravated by, general tension, lack of sleep, or stress. 

Back pain can come from several sources. 

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Next Topic: Neck and Back Pain

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