A bit about the back...
A healthy back allows you to move, bend, twist and stretch fully without pain.
The spine has three natural curves forming an S-shape which keep your body balanced. Strong postural muscles help maintain the S-shape and hold your spine in correct alignment. These strong core muscles help to take the load off your spine. The individual bones in your spine or vertebrae are separated by soft, cushioning discs which act as shock absorbers and allow for normal spinal movement.
What can go wrong?
Back pain is very common and normally feels like a tension, ache or stiffness in the back. You can experience backache anywhere along the spine, from the neck down to the hips, but it’s most common in the lower back.
Some common back pain disorders include:
- Non-specific low back pain or lumbago
- Pregnancy related back pain
- Slipped (herniated) disc
- Facet joint sprains
- Ligament tears
- Nerve root irritation/compression
- Spondylosis or osteoarthritis
- Weakness in core musculature
- Thoracic stiffness (hypomobility)
- Wry neck (acute torticollis)
What can cause back pain?
Bad posture can cause problems such as tight muscles, ligament sprains or stiffness in the joints causing them not to move properly. Sometimes the pain may be a result of an injury such as a sprain or strain, but often it occurs for no apparent reason. Occasionally back pain can be caused by a medical condition such as:
- Prolapsed disc – where the soft inner disc of cartilage between the vertebra protrudes and presses on a nearby exiting nerve
- Stenosis – osteoarthritis or wear and tear of the spine causes narrowing of the spinal canal compressing the exiting nerves
These conditions tend to cause additional symptoms, such as numbness, weakness or a tingling sensation, and they're treated differently from non-specific back pain.
There are several risk factors that can impact back pain including:
- Physical inactivity – causes weakening of the stabilising core muscles around the spine and shortening of soft tissues such as spinal ligaments limiting movement and causing pain
- Obesity – puts unnecessary strain on the body’s structures including the vertebrae, the intervertebral disc and soft tissues
- Occupation – such as heavy lifting and adopting a poor sitting posture
Sometimes it's not possible to identify the cause of back pain. Doctors call this non-specific back pain.
Specialist treatment and prevention of back pain
The NICE Guidelines, based on the best available scientific evidence, promotes the use of manual therapy (mobilisation, manipulation, soft tissue techniques) and strengthening exercises for the treatment of back pain.
At The Medical, we specialise in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of back pain:
- Diagnosis - X-ray and 3D Movement Scanners
- Treatment - manual therapy, such as manipulating the spine and massage, carried out by physiotherapists, chiropractors or osteopaths
- Strength and conditioning - Pilates and rehabilitation where you're taught exercises to strengthen your muscles and improve your posture