Back ache is a very common complaint and a leading cause of disability worldwide that can affect both young and old. Many individuals will not need extensive treatment for back pain. Over-the-counter pain medications are often sufficient. In more severe cases, stronger treatments may be necessary, but they’re typically provided under close supervision from your doctor. The majority of back pain episodes are relieved by treatment with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) and pain relievers.
The most common causes of lower back pain are strain and problems with back structures. According to the Mayo Clinic, you’re at an increased risk for back pain if you:
- work in a sedentary environment.
- don’t exercise.
- engage in high-impact activity without stretching or warming up first.
- have obesity.
- a smoker.
- have been diagnosed with a specific condition like arthritis.
Common Causes of Back Aches
Strain : Strained muscles often cause back pain. Strain commonly occurs with incorrect lifting of heavy objects and sudden awkward movements. It can also result from over-activity. An example is the sore feeling and stiffness that occurs after a few hours of yard work or playing a sport.
Bone Structure Problem : Vertebral disk injuries are a fairly common cause of back pain. Sometimes these disks can bulge, herniate, or rupture. Nerves can get compressed when this happens. Herniated disks can be very painful. A bulging disk pressing on the nerve that travels from your back down your leg can cause sciatica or irritation of the sciatic nerve. Sciatica can be experienced in your leg as:
Osteoarthritis : Spinal osteoarthritis is also a potential cause for back pain. It’s caused by damage and deterioration in the cartilage of joints in your lower back. Over time, this condition can lead to narrowing of the spinal column, or spinal stenosis.
Osteoporosis : Loss of bone density and thinning of the bone, called osteoporosis, can lead to small fractures in your vertebrae. These fractures can cause serious pain and are referred to as compression fractures.
There are many other potential causes of back pain, but most of these are rare. Be sure to see your doctor if you experience regular back pain that does not go away. After ruling out the more common causes of back pain, your doctor will perform tests to determine if you have a rarer cause. These can include:
- displacement of one vertebral body onto another, called degenerative spondylolisthesis.
- loss of nerve function at the lower spinal cord, called cauda equina syndrome (a medical emergency).
- fungal or bacterial infection of the spine, such as Staphylococcus, E. coli, or tuberculosis.
- cancer or nonmalignant tumor in the spine.
- kidney infection or kidney stones
4 Best Ways To Relieve Back Aches At Home
Many home remedies can be used with traditional back pain treatments. If you have questions about these, talk with your doctor.
Heat/ice therapy : Ice packs may relieve discomfort and help lessen inflammation in acute phases of back pain. Don’t apply the ice directly to your skin. Wrap it in a thin towel or gauze to prevent damage to your skin. Warm compresses may also relieve pain when inflammation has subsided. Consider alternating between heat and cold.
Exercises : Exercises to improve posture and strengthen the muscles of the back and abdominal muscles called the core muscles are a treatment option that should be strongly considered.
Essential oils : Research suggests lavender essential oil or ointments made with capsaicin may help decrease pain. Capsaicin is the ingredient in peppers that make them hot. These ingredients may desensitize the nerves in the impacted area and decrease the pain you feel.
Salt baths : A hot bath can do wonders for aching muscles, but while you’re soaking, give the water an added boost for your back with salt. Your body can absorb the minerals from the salt bath, and they can help ease aching muscles.
Medications For Back Ache
If home remedies do not solve the back ache problem, you may consider adding medication. But be sure to talk with your doctor about it first. Other medication options include:
- You can use NSAIDs such as ibuprofen (Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve). Be careful with medications like ibuprofen if you have kidney problems or stomach ulcers.
- Pain relievers, or analgesics, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), are also an option, though they don’t have the anti-inflammatory properties.
- Topical ointment products may be highly effective at reducing back pain. Many of these contain ingredients like ibuprofen and lidocaine, which have been found to work better than a placebo when it comes to pain relief.
- Opioids are stronger pain medications that can be prescribed for more severe pain. These medications, such as oxycodone (OxyContin) and a combination of acetaminophen and hydrocodone (Vicodin), act on the brain cells and body to reduce pain. Opioids should be used with caution, however, due to a risk of addiction.
- Muscle relaxants can also be used for low back pain, especially is muscle spasms are occurring alongside pain. These medicines act on the central nervous system to reduce pain.
- Antidepressants and other medications can sometimes be used off-label for the treatment of back pain. If your back pain is severe, your doctor may prescribe amitriptyline, a tricyclic antidepressant, because it focuses on different parts of the pain response. This antidepressant may also work better for nerve-related pain.
- Your doctor might also recommend cortisone steroid injections for severe back pain. However, pain relief from steroid injections usually wears off by around three months.
What You Can Do To Prevent Back Ache
These tips can help ease back pain when it happens. They can also help you prevent back pain in the first place.
Heavy briefcases, laptop bags, suitcases, and purses can add unnecessary stress and strain to your neck and spine. Try to reduce what you need to carry, and use bags that distribute the weight more evenly, such as a backpack. If you can, use a bag with wheels to keep weight off your back entirely.
Exercise Your Core Muscles
The muscles in and around your abdomen and back help keep you upright and carry you through your physical activities. Strengthening them can also reduce the chances of pain, strain, or damage to your back. Plug strength-training workouts with a core focus into your regular fitness routine at least twice a week.
Improve Your Posture
Poor posture can put unnecessary pressure and strain on your spine. Over time, this can lead to pain and damage. Regularly remind yourself to roll back rounded shoulders and sit upright in your chair.
High-heeled shoes are likely to cause damage to your back if you wear them frequently. Pick comfortable, low-heeled shoes when you can. One inch is a maximum heel height suggestion.
Doing the same thing every day can leave your muscles fatigued and more apt to strain. Stretch regularly to help improve circulation in those muscles and lower the risk of back pain and damage. If you think these five tips are helpful for preventing back pain, read five more ways to help reduce your chances of hurting your back.