Generally, back pain simply means having pain at your back bone which covers the area from your neck to the buttocks. Any structures involved over this area may give you back pain. Almost everyone will experience back pain at least once in their lifetime due to many reasons which will be discussed further. This back pain is usually aggravated with walking, climbing up and bending. At times, the pain can be shooting down to both or one of your legs and this term is called sciatica.
Anyone at any age, sex, occupation can get back pain and this may impact your quality of life at many degrees according to the severity. Back pain is not a diagnosis, instead it is a symptom that arises from different conditions. Below are some common causes of back pain.
- Mechanical back pain
This pain is due to the mechanical pressure loaded on the back bone. Activities like carrying heavy weights, sitting and sleeping at wrong positions are some of the main causes for this back pain. It can happen at any age of life especially for people who sit on a chair for a prolonged time or carry heavy objects around.
For pregnant women, the extra weight carried in their uterus could give additional load to the spine causing back pain.
- Prolapsed intervertebral disc
This is also another common cause of back pain. Our back bones are separated from each other by a disc called intervertebral disc. Any vigorous load to the spine such as lifting weights can cause this disc to prolapse either centrally or to the side. This prolapsed disc then impinge on the nerves exiting the spine causing tearing of the nerve covering causing back pain radiating to the buttocks and thigh.
- Osteomyelitis or TB spine
Osteomyelitis simply means infection to the bone and in this scenario it is the back bone. This infection by bacteria or tuberculosis causes erosion of bone and formation of new bones at the edge pressing the nerve, thus causing the pain.
- Scoliosis or kyphosis
Scoliosis and kyphosis are anatomic abnormalities of the back bone. In scoliosis, your backbone is curved in a ‘s’ shape while in kyphosis, your bone is curved outwards which normally happens when you age. These structural abnormalities can be detected by ust inspecting the back and measuring angles from x rays.
- Back bone cancer
Back bone malignancy is common in people who had cancer elsewhere in the body like thyroid cancer, breast cancer and lung cancer. These cancers spread commonly to the back bone causing destruction of the back bone body and causing pain. Back bone cancer usually manifests with other constitutional symptoms like loss of weight and loss of appetite.
- Other medical conditions
Medical conditions like inflammation of gallbladder, inflammation of the pancreas, kidney infections and having dilated abdominal aorta can also present as back pain. Some of these causes are medical emergencies and should be treated immediately to prevent death.
Symptoms of back pain
Some other worrying associated symptoms of back pain such as the one listed below are essential to be noticed as it may be an early sign of having bone cancer.
- Intermittent fever
- Loss of weight
- Loss of appetite
- Night pain
- Previous history of cancer
- Radiating pain to legs
- Paralysis of leg muscles
If you have any of these symptoms accompanying your back, do get an appointment from a doctor to let them evaluate your risks of getting serious conditions of the back bone. An array of investigations such as x-ray, MRI and tumor markers will be taken to investigate further on your back pain and treated accordingly.