PLEASE NOTE: This is the most comprehensive guide you'll have read about back pain, based on my own experience with this malady. It is a combination of textual explanation, infographic and video instructions, and is nearly 2,000 words, so make sure you bookmark this ASAP for future reference.
If you are looking for exercises, simply scroll down.
I am 33. I have suffered from back pain, both lower and upper since I was 14. It started(the lower back) one day when I returned from school, just like that, or so I thought.
In the following days, my dad took me to various orthopedic doctors and I was put on medication(painkillers).
It simply did not work. Yes, it gave me temporary relief, but every time I would take part in a physical activity, it would come back.
Ultimately they suggested I go for surgery. My dad backed off...
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Back pain is one of the most common complaints for people today. In the U.S. alone it has been projected that 80% will suffer from it at one time or another in their lives.
Back injuries and pain is one of the leading reasons for disability in the world. In general although it can be agonizing, most cases of back pain are not serious.
This condition can affect anyone at any age, however it most usually occurs in people between the ages of 35 and 55.
Your back is made up of a system of muscles, ligaments, nerves and bones, and pain can come from issues with any of these individual parts or combinations.
Many times the reason behind the pain is unknown, but determining the cause is very important for treatment.
The first step to diagnosing the problem is pin pointing the area of your back that is hurting.
The location of the pain is a huge clue as to the cause.
The part of your back that is meant by the upper back is the back side of the upper abdominal and chest area including the shoulder blades.
When a patient has discomfort in this area it is also called the middle back or thoracic back pain.
Causes of pain in upper back:
Usually pain in the upper back occurs due to either muscular irritation, joint dysfunction or a combination of both.
Neck and back shoulder pain often come along with upper back problems.
This neck and shoulder type of injury is becoming more prevalent as patients who work all day on computers are complaining of this condition. It is a good example of injury related to poor posture.
Sometimes pain in your upper back can arise from conditions that are not back problems.
When you experience pain in the chest and back it could be heart related. It is always a good idea to see your physician to rule out angina or any other heart issues.
Occurrences of upper right back pain can be from torn ligaments or strained muscles, however it could be a sign of something other than a back injury as well.
Pain in this area is sometimes related to more serious issues like pinched nerves or your gall bladder.
Although most cases of pain in the upper quadrant of your back is due to trauma or injury doctors recommend that any persistent pain that creates disturbances in day to day life should be checked out.
Lower back pain causes:
Problems with lower back pain is very common, but the level of pain and type of symptoms can have a wide range of differences.
It sounds backwards, but something as simple as a strained muscle in your lower back can be more agonizing than a disc that is degenerating.
So, no matter how little it may bother you, you should always have a doctor take a look to be safe.
Ignoring something like a degenerating disc can lead to more serious, long lasting problems if left untreated.
Another common cause of pain in the lower back is a pinched or compressed nerve, also called peripheral neuropathy.
This condition can cause severe or minor damage. It could also create problems that continue for a long time. The nerves usually become compressed between:
When a nerve remains compressed for a long period of time build up of fluid can occur causing:
These things can create disturbances with how the nerves function.
Even over exerting yourself can cause a disc to pop out and compress a nerve. This is called a bulging or herniated disc.
This type of injury can cause right back pain or left back pain in either the thoracic spine or lower back regions.
Any of these problems have the possibility of leading to sharp pain in the lower back, however keep in mind that even the dullest discomfort can point to a more serious issue, and something as simple as slight muscle spasms in the back can be a warning that action needs to be taken.
Never ignore back pain whether it be of the upper, lower, right or left areas of your back.
There is a variety of arthritis types and associated issues which affect the bone, muscle or joints, and can cause stiffness, pain, swelling and discomfort in the back.
Arthritis can affect any area of the back, however most often in the lower back.
Some types of arthritis that can create problems in the back include:
Arthritis in the back can be treated in some instances with medications and with exercises.
The American Physical Therapy Association released an interesting infographic detailing the causes as well as the effects of back pain in the daily lives of people.
It isn't exactly a long read, but some of the info provided was contrary to what I thought.
Based on their numbers -
At the end of the infographic, I have posted my key takeaway and an informative video by Dr. Robert Bulger M.D. on how to explain your back pain to the doctor.
It is only a minute long, but gives you a good base before you visit your local therapist.
In some cases a doctor can diagnose and treat back pain or injuries with certain procedures such as laser spine surgery or medications.
You heal and everything is better, the pain is gone.
Other times there isn't any surgery or medical treatment that can “cure” your back problem.
For these kinds of injuries there are many alternative treatments such as exercises and stretches for back pain.
Many people can't or don't want to rely on drugs to manage their pain, so home remedies and exercises are wonderful methods that can be used to avoid using medications.
The best way to get relief is to discover which approach works best for you. Often a combination of treatments is the way to go.
Of course as already stated you should always consult a physician to rule out anything serious before looking into treatments on your own.
There are many doctors and other professionals who have studied and researched pain management, and a lot of them have developed plans and programs to alleviate back, shoulder, neck and other chronic pain.
These programs offer pain relief through exercise, diet, stretches, yoga, posture positions and water therapy to name a few.
An example of one of these is a book by Esther Gokale, 8 Steps to a Pain Free-Back: Natural Posture Solutions for Pain in the Back, Neck, Shoulder, Hip, Knee and Foot.
Ms. Gokale suffered for years off and on with back pain herself.
After having went through numerous treatments and surgery she would still have pain return.
So she said, “I decided to find my own path out of misery and to begin my own deep research into causes and treatments for back pain.”
During her research she came across a technique using posture modification that helped to manage her pain.
In her book she outlines this approach.
Many other types of plans use different exercises for upper and lower back pain, and there are even programs that are developed specifically for lower back exercises for men, pregnant women or upper back, shoulder or neck exercises.
There are even specially made pillows, mattresses, other bed and chair accessories for helping you to get rid of pain.
Nayoya Wellness offers a best selling acupressure Mat and Pillow set using 6,210 acupressure points.
It includes one of the best pillows for neck pain, and turns your bed into the best bed for back pain.
For lower back pain relief a good choice is the Thalway Lumbar Pillow which is great for traveling and whenever you need extra support.
I can't tell you how much it has helped me, especially during office hours. A true life saver!
Another great option is the BackBone Cushion.
It is a posture supporter that is also convenient for using at work or whenever you need to be sitting for long periods of time.
No matter where your pain is located there are many options available for your treatment.
The key is to try a variety of methods and decide what is best for you.
The most simplest approach is to get together with doctor or chiropractor to discuss your options.
It also helps to have had your condition diagnosed so that you know exactly which area of your back to focus on.
Depending on the location of pain and the type of injury you may need to avoid certain movements or positions.
This is where the consultation will really come in handy!
In the end what will help the best might be a combination of alternative treatments, exercises and even medications.
Trial and error is the only way to find the perfect mixture of methods.
Don't get discouraged it may take time, but you will get there. You will, with a little patience and work, discover the path to a pain free back.
My dad, through reference consulted a holistic practitioner, who was an expert in Ayurveda. He put me on a herbal course that really healed/cured the pain forever.
Or I thought so. 7 years later, at 22, the pain re-visited me, and with it all the painful memories.
This time though, I took a different route. I was on my own, and in a different city.
I decided to visit a physiotherapist who suggested a set of exercises as seen on the image/video above.
He warned me that this problem "may never go". Since then, my pain has improved a lot, but at the "back" of my mind, there is always the tingling sensation, and a reminder that the pain exists somewhere and may re-surface. Or may not.
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