Fact: Approximately 8 out of 10 people experience uncomfortable to severe back pain at some point in their lives. And many of these have had the unfortunate experience…repeatedly.
Wow. With that many sufferers among us, it’s no surprise that as an acupuncturist and alternative practitioner in my Park Avenue Center for Wellbeing I often hear complaints of back problems.
“Throwing your back out” can be characterized by a number of unpleasant symptoms, ranging from tingling, numbness, and stiffness, to pain traveling down the legs, such as with sciatica. Usually the discomfort clients talk about emanates from the lower back, the connection between the lower and upper body that bears much of the body’s total weight.
Acute, or sudden, back pain often serves as a warning light. It’s the body’s signal that stress, wear and tear, or a particular activity may be a problem. Acute back pain usually mends on its own in a few days to a few weeks but can often be relieved even more quickly with the help of rest and mind-body attention. The goals of treatment: minimize pain, relax tight muscles, and restore normal motion.
Chronic or long-term back pain, discomfort that lasts longer than 3 months, can be more challenging to quell and can also be more debilitating over time. (Just ask someone who is dealing with it!) Because the discomfort is continuous and often intense, many sufferers also develop a form of depression. A medical diagnosis is especially important in chronic cases because back pain can mask other health issues. Medication from your physician, or even surgery as a last resort, may sometimes be indicated to manage pain.
For chronic back pain, the treatment goal is multifold: slow any degenerative process, manage pain, support healthy tissue and bone, and manage and balance inflammatory response.
The most common causes of back pain—whether acute or chronic—include:
- Unusual movement resulting from lifting heavy objects incorrectly or from awkward bending or twisting of the torso;
- Injury from sports, car accidents, or falls;
- A preexisting spinal weakness that suddenly flares up and presses on a nerve, such as with herniated discs;
- Tight or strained muscles, such as the piriformis, pressing on a nerve;
- Sitting still for extended periods of time, as well as the poor posture that often comes with such inertia;
- Aging, including resultant bone loss and arthritis, which can cause pain;
- The constricting, tightening action of STRESS. The stress factor may appear last on this list, but it’s at the core of many cases of back pain.
Do your back a favor. Take a second look at the common causes of back pain above. Do you see a risk factor that applies to you? If so, can you do something about that one? True, not all conditions are preventable, but a great many are. If you can take a step right now to minimize or eliminate your potential for falling victim to back pain, make that effort to assure your continued comfort and wellbeing.
The good news for anyone already dealing with back issues is, management and relief of back pain come in many forms, many of them natural and drug-free. In our next newsletter, I will introduce you to some of the best treatments to put back pain in its place. Join me “back” here next time for some great holistic back pain solutions!