Back Pain - Causes
Back problems are mostly self-inflicted. Most of our back troubles happen because of bad habits, generally developed over a long period of time: poor posture: overexertion in work and play; sitting incorrectly at the desk or the steering wheel; pushing, pulling, and lifting things carelessly. Sometimes the effects are immediate, but in many cases back problems develop over time. The most common type of back pain comes from straining the bands of muscles surrounding the spine. Although such strains can occur anywhere along the spine, they happen most often in the curve of the lower back; the next most common place is at the base of the neck.
For many years, it was assumed that back pain was the result of spinal degeneration or injury, especially damage to the intervertebral disks. These are structures located between the vertebrae that act as cushions. Each disk consists of a tough, fibrous outer layer surrounding a soft interior that provides the cushioning. With the ordinary wear and tear of living, the disks show signs of aging and may be injured. When a disk begins to degenerate, a strain-even something as small as a sneeze-can cause the disk to rupture, or herniate, allowing the soft interior material to protrude out of the disk and press against the spinal cord.
A herniated disk can cause severe intermittent or constant back pain. However, disk disease are not the main cause of back pain. That is because most adults past the age of forty-whether they experience back pain or not--have some degree of disk degeneration. In most instances, disk degeneration and even herniation do not produce any symptoms of back pain.
It is now believed that the leading cause of back pain is simple muscle strain. Symptoms may come on suddenly and can be acutely painful; but back pain, in actuality, develops over a long period of time. When muscles contract, lactic acid and pyruvic acid are produced as byproducts of muscular activity. It is the lactic acid in the muscles that produces the sensation of muscle fatigue following strenuous activity. If high levels of these acidic byproducts accumulate in the muscles, they cause irritation that can eventually turn into pain and interfere with the normal conduction of electrical impulses in the muscle tissue. This results in a phenomenon called delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Problems with acidic buildup are often made worse by dehydration.
In most cases, the back pain has an associated psychological component. It could be a deep-seated emotional or stress-related problem.
The factors that contribute to back pain include:
Improper footwear and walking habits
Improper lifting, lifting heavy objects
Straining individual muscles
Slouching when sitting
Prolonged sitting, especially in a chair that does not adequately support the back
Sleeping on a mattress that is too soft
Kidney, bladder, and prostate problems
Female pelvic disorders
Constipation may produce back pain
Abnormal curvature of the spine
Fractures are rarely the cause of back pain. Sometimes backache occurs for no apparent reason. They may develop from weakened muscles that cannot handle everyday walking, bending, and stretching. In other cases, the discomfort seems
to come from, or is aggravated by, general tension, lack of sleep, or stress.