By Dr Rachna Pande
Pain in the back or, “backache”, is a condition which can incapacitate a person enough to stop his work. It can occur in an individual of any age or gender.
In children, the backbone is very flexible and usually pain does not occur, unless there is some injury or infection. Adults suffer more from backache due to multiple causes. After any injury, pain tends to persist in an adult, being aggravated at times of physical stress.
Office workers, who sit for 8 to 10hours continuously every day, are much more prone to back pain.
Since human beings started walking on 2 legs, the back remains an unsupported structure, moving against force of gravity. When one sits for a long time continuously, force of gravity tends to pull the spine down sagging it and this causes stress inducing pain. While sitting, the back is turned, twisted and bent in various directions, movements which cause stress and backache.
If one is seated with no proper support, the back muscles are stretched and stressed. Result is backache. Tall persons are more susceptible to backache because the back needs more support.
As age advances, back bone tends to become brittle. When people use their back as a spring, bending it in any direction, it leads to pain because of the pressure exerted on it. As age advances, the stiffness of back increases, and also the pain. Degenerative changes occur in the spine because of stress and aging causing reduction in joint space. New tiny bones tend to grow between the joints. This further diminishes the suppleness of the backbone causing backache. Demineralization and softening of bones occur with aging, which makes all bones, including the back bone weak. This also contributes to back pain because any kind of movement on the back tends to induce stress.
Infections of the backbone like T.B. or osteomyelitis, also cause backache. Infections in the urinary system or pelvic parts, including sexually transmitted diseases are yet another cause of pain in the lower back.
Cause for a backache can be determined very easily by the clinical features and X-ray of the spine. If infection is suspected, relevant tests help to pin point it.
Once chronic backache starts, there is no root cure. Therefore it is better to adopt preventive measures.
If one avoids bending from the back, it helps in avoiding backache. For something to be picked from the floor it is better to sit straight on knees and get up straight.
For sitting, one should opt for a chair with a straight and long back. The back should be fully supported by the chair or a cushion. This applies more for people whose work involves sitting continuously for hours.
A hard bed is ideal for sleeping as the spine remains straight on that. A thin mattress should be used. Back bone tends to sag on a thick mattress, therefore it should be avoided.
One should avoid lifting heavy weights, particularly if not habituated to it as it can lead to lumbar strain. If at all necessary to move a heavy object, it can be dragged.
Regular exercises of the spine are very useful to keep the backbone lithe and prevent pain. If the person is very busy, he can do some simple exercises while at work. In between work, he can stand on tiptoes, gradually stretch entire body with hands kept stretched above head. This position can be maintained for a minute and then body can be brought back to normal position. While sitting, the back can be stretched for a moment and then let loose.
A healthy nutritious diet delays or minimizes osteoporosis, thus preventing one factor for backache.
If backache is present, bed rest on a hard bed is advisable. Pain killer drugs provide relief from pain but are not curative.
Somebody starting a job involving desk work should be careful and take all due precautions so that by the time he is a senior executive, he should not suffer from backache.
Dr Rachna Pande
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