The Human Back
The human back is made up of bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments. These parts make up the spinal column. The spinal column consists of 30 bones called the vertebrae. The spinal column helps hold up the upper part of the body. The back is an integral part of the human body (National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases [NIAMS], 2013.
Back pain can affect people of all ages and ethnicities. Back pain can be acute or chronic. Acute back pain usually lasts a couple of days and can be relieved by an ibuprofen. Chronic back pain normally occurs for more than three months. Older people are more susceptible to back pain because as they age, their bone strength decreases and muscles become less elastic and flexible. People who are overweight have more back pain due to the excess amount of weight the back has to support. Children who carry heavy backpacks for hours during the school day may experience back pain. Back pain can also affect people who live sedentary lifestyles, smoke often and have unhealthy diets (NIAMS, 2013).
Causes of Back Pain
Mayo Clinic (2014) provides a list of possible reasons for the cause or causes of back pain:
- Ankylosing spondylitis
- Herniated Disk
- Kidney Infection
- Paget’s Disease of Bones
- Poor Posture
- Spinal Fractures
- Spinal Stenosis
- Sprains and strains
Acute back pain can be traced back to an injury or trauma. Chronic back pain is usually a symptom of an underlying disorder or illness. To receive an accurate diagnosis for the back pain, visiting a family physician may be the wisest decision.
The physician may take a look at your medical history along with your family history to rule out any genetic predispositions to back disorders. A thorough physical exam will be conducted. In addition, a few other tests may be performed. These tests include, but are not limited, to the following (NIAMS, 2013):
- Ultrasound imaging
- Bone Scans
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Computerized tomography (CT) scan
To relieve acute and chronic back pain, a number of methods are available:
- Hot and cold compresses are used to decrease swelling and pain.
- Medications such as Advil, Ibuprofen and muscle relaxants are helpful for pain.
- Low impact exercises such as walking, climbing and swimming have been proven to increase muscle tone and decrease tension in the back.
- Physical Therapy
Other non-traditional ways to ease back pain are provided in the following
(Mayo Clinic, 2014):
- Chiropractic care. Back pain is one of the most common reasons that people see a chiropractor.
- Acupuncture. A practitioner of acupuncture inserts sterilized stainless steel needles into the skin at specific points on the body. Some people with low back pain report that acupuncture helps relieve their symptoms.
- Massage. If your back is caused by tense or overworked muscles, massage therapy may help.
- Yoga. There are several types of yoga, a board discipline that involves practicing specific postures or poses, breathing exercises and relaxation techniques.
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skins Diseases. (2013). Handout on Health: Back Pain. Back Pain. Retrieved September 21, 2014, from http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Back_Pain/default.asp#3
Mayo Clinic. (2014). Definition. Back Pain: Symptom. Retrieved September 21, 2014, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/back-pain/basics/definition/sym-20050878
This article is written by Hang Pham. Hang Pham is a Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance Health and Wellness Educator. Hang Pham was born in Hoc Mon, Vietnam. She came to America in 1994, becoming a U.S. citizen in 2011. Hang graduated from Seaside High School with diploma and received her AA in General Studies from Monterey Peninsula College in 2011. She received her BA in Collaborative Health and Human Services from California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB) in 2012. In addition to working as a volunteer staff with the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance, she currently works as a Clerical Aid in the Human Resources Department of Salinas City Hall. The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a registered 501 (c) 3 nonprofit health and wellness education organization. For more information about the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance contact us or visit our website at www.montereybayholistic.com.
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