What is Back Pain?
Back pain is medically termed as lumbago. It is a very common musculoskeletal disorder, characterized by painful manifestations in a specific area of the back or multiple areas of the back.
These pain areas can be precisely localized or more widespread, extending to the cervical area, thighs, and buttocks. At times, even the visceral area can be affected.
In addition to the term lumbago, which is specifically used when this type of pain affects the lumbar region, the term dorsopathy can also be used. In industrialized countries, spinal pathologies affect between 60% and 80% of the adult population.
Symptoms of Back Pain
Along with the pain along the spine, whether localized in specific areas or radiating, as will be explored later, back pain presents with a set of symptoms that should not be underestimated during anamnesis, as they can help in framing the etiology.
Common symptoms accompanying back pain include:
- Tingling sensation in hands and feet (paresthesia)
- Feeling of a numb limb
- Muscle weakness
- Dizziness and a sense of loss of balance
- Nausea or vomiting
- Generalized stiffness along the spine.
Understanding the Causes of Back Pain
When dealing with back pain, the discomfort can stem from various causes. Sudden movements, representing a time-limited cause, can occur. In most cases, the pain can be attributed to rather serious physiological conditions such as neuro-muscular disorders, inflammation, or even cancer and metastases. Causes of back pain may include:
- Congenital or acquired deformities of the spine, such as spondylolisthesis
- Ankylosing spondylitis, which also causes pain and stiffness
- Vertebral degenerative processes such as arthritis or osteoporosis
- Inflammatory processes such as rheumatoid arthritis
- Muscle contractions in certain muscles, for example, the iliopsoas.
In any case, only a doctor can identify, as will be seen, the causes that have led to the onset of lumbago, which depend on the patient’s specific experiences.
What are the Risk Factors for Back Pain?
Back pain has multiple risk factors that can contribute, even at a relatively young age. Among these factors are:
- Incorrect lifestyle
- Inadequate physical fitness
- Excessive physical exercise
- Lack of physical activity
- Sedentary work
Contributing to the onset of back pain are also some omissions: not applying ergonomic rules such as bending forward rather than bending the knees, or sleeping on a mattress that is too hard or, conversely, too soft.
Working for many consecutive hours in a sitting position can also cause back pain. It is not enough to maintain an upright posture to reduce the risks of lower back pain; it is necessary to follow specific guidelines on how to have the right position of the monitor and chair, and then perform exercises suitable for relaxing the muscles and spine.
Hip-related problems, connected to posture, can also result in lower back pain.
How Long Does Back Pain Last? And How Concerned Should You Be?
Back pain can be distinguished between acute and chronic back pain depending on the duration and specific characteristics.
Acute back pain generally resolves within a month. It occurs after a well-defined event, such as trauma or excessive physical effort. Any element of the spine, such as an intervertebral disc, cartilage, or ligament, can be affected.
The so-called “witch’s stab” is a well-known example. It has a muscular cause, and its manifestation is an extremely painful and piercing contraction. The patient may be immobilized in movements.
Chronic back pain is diagnosed when the duration exceeds thirty days. The cause may be attributed to muscle contraction or anatomical alterations. In cases of contraction, the pain no longer serves its protective function, becoming debilitating and purposeless. In 10-15% of cases, acute back pain becomes chronic.