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Your back is they key structural support for your entire body. Together with your muscles and joints, it allows you to move and bear weight—but it’s a finely balanced structure that can be easily injured if not cared for properly. Understanding the basics of back care can make the difference a healthy back and an aching one.
The back—or spinal column—is comprised of 24 moveable bones called vertebrae. Between each vertebra is a cushion-like pad—called a disc—that absorbs shock. Your vertebrae and discs are supported by muscles and ligaments, which keep your back in proper alignment. A healthy back has three balanced curves—the cervical (neck) curve, thoracic (chest) curve, and the lumbar (lower back) curve. When any part of the system that comprises your back is out of alignment, or experiences disease or injury, then back problems and pain generally follow.
A healthy back is a balanced back—which is to say your cervical, thoracic, and lumbar curves are all properly aligned. So what does “properly aligned” mean? Your back is said to be in proper alignment when your ears, shoulders, and hips are “stacked” in a straight line.
Now that we have a bit of background on what makes for a healthy back, we can better understand the mechanics behind back pain. The majority of backaches are caused by both poor posture and weak supporting muscles. Poor posture places excess stress on the spinal column, which, over time, can lead to sudden acute back pain, as well as chronic back pain. Weak muscles are often responsible for poor posture. This is one of the first places to look to when thinking preventively about back pain—strengthening key muscles can make a big difference for those that are prone to back pain. As well, there are various conditions, such as scoliosis, arthritis, and herniated or ruptured discs that can also cause back pain—many of which can also be helped by the strengthening of back muscles and improvement in posture.
There are many different causes of back pain. Common causes include:
There are many different factors that can affect your risk of developing back pain. According to the National Institute of Health, the following are the most common risk factors for back pain:
Diagnostic procedures for the underlying causes of back pain vary. If you are experiencing back pain, see a doctor. He or she will be able to conduct the proper set of diagnostic tests to determine the cause of your back pain. Tests that your doctor may conduct include:
The following tips can help you manage living with back pain:
The following tips can help you prevent back pain:
Back pain can be treated with a variety of medications and treatments.
Many sources of back pain can be relieved by a chiropractic care. The most common therapeutic procedure performed by chiropractors (doctors who specialize in chiropractic medicine) is typically called a “chiropractic adjustment,” but is also referred to as “spinal manipulation.” Injured tissues undergo physical and chemical changes that can cause inflammation, pain, and diminished function for the sufferer. The purpose of an adjustment is to restore joint mobility and relieve pain. Manipulation, or adjustment of the affected joint and tissues helps restore mobility, which alleviates pain and muscular tension, allowing the inflamed tissue to heal.
Pain relief medications.
These medications come in different forms and strengths. They are available as prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medications and can treat various type of pain, including acute and chronic conditions and post-surgical discomfort. All medications have side effects, and many pain-relieving medications can be highly addictive. Speak with your doctor about what side effects you can expect from the medications you are taking.
Over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications include:
Prescription pain relievers include:
Some cases of back pain may require surgical intervention. Commonly performed surgical procedures include:
According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CCAM) the currently available evidence is not strong enough to allow definite conclusions to be reached about whether any complementary approach is effective for chronic pain. However, a growing body of scientific evidence suggests that several approaches may help to manage some painful conditions including low back pain, headaches, rheumatoid arthritis (including in the knee) and osteoarthritis.
These approaches are:
If you are experiencing unexplained back pain, schedule an appointment with your doctor.
If you are taking pain medication and experience any of the following symptoms, call your doctor immediately:
** If you experience chest pain, call emergency services. This may be a sign of heart attack.
You may want to ask your doctor the following questions:
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