- 1 Back pain – illness, therapy and rehabilitation
- 2 Back pain: general
- 3 Back pain: causes
- 4 Back pain: appearance/symptoms
- 5 Back pain: examinations & diagnosis
- 6 Back pain: treatment, therapy & rehab
Back pain – illness, therapy and rehabilitation
Almost everyone suffers from back pain at least once in their life. The causes can be very different. Most cases of back pain are harmless and can be treated well without medication or surgery. Massages, treatments with warmth or sports exercises are often sufficient. Find out more about the causes of back pain, therapy and rehabilitation here.
Back pain: general
Back pain is the common ailment. Two thirds of USA’s state that they had back pain at least once in the previous year. 12 percent even feel the pain every day. Around 20 million USA’s go to the doctor every year for back pain. Children can already be affected: Two out of three students between the ages of ten and sixteen stated in surveys that they had back problems. Doctors warn that this development will continue as sport and exercise are increasingly replaced by smartphones and game consoles.
Back pain: causes
In many cases, the causes of back pain are lack of movement or one-sided loads (for example, the wrong technique when lifting loads). Sitting for long periods in non-ergonomically designed workplaces, poor posture and being overweight all contribute to the development of back pain. Stress and psychological problems sometimes increase the symptoms. Sometimes pain also arises from inflammation in the back, which can be triggered for example, by cold (tension).
Rarer causes of back pain are irritation, bruising or damage to the nerves. The sciatic nerve emerging from the spinal cord is particularly often affected here. Wear to the spine and strains or blockages in the area of the vertebral joints can also trigger back pain. The intervertebral discs are also possible triggers: they lie between the individual vertebrae and act like elastic cushions. If you bend forward or slip (herniated disc), severe pain can occur. Sometimes other diseases can cause pain that radiates to the back. These include, for example, inflammation of the kidney, lungs, heart, pancreas or esophagus.
If the cause of the symptoms cannot be clearly identified, doctors speak of non-specific back pain . This affects around 80 percent of all those affected. Tense, overstretched or shortened muscles are usually the cause. The associated complaints are not really a disease. However, you should still be treated so that the back pain does not settle and become chronic.
Back pain: appearance/symptoms
Back pain can manifest itself in different ways. It is particularly important for the doctor to know where the pain occurs. The back is divided into three areas: neck, chest and lumbar area. The lower back lumbar spine is most commonly affected. Pain in the top area (cervical spine) can arise, among other things, from tight muscles in the neck or from inflammation. The pain can radiate into the back of the head, arms or shoulders. Pain that subsides within a maximum of twelve weeks is called acute back pain. The complaints are often exacerbated by patients adopting an unhealthy posture or avoiding movement due to back pain.
Back pain: examinations & diagnosis
To analyze your back pain more closely, your doctor will ask you first. It is important: Where and when does the pain occur? How long have the symptoms lasted? Have you had back problems before? Has the back pain been treated before and did the therapy help? Depending on the result of this survey, the doctor recommends measures for relief or carries out further examinations.
Laboratory test (blood, urine)
Through routine blood and urine tests, your doctor can determine if you have inflammation or kidney problems. All other examinations are usually only used if pain does not improve with conventional treatments.
Radiological examination (X-ray, CT, MR)
If there are specific suspicions of more serious causes of back pain, x-rays and special methods such as computer tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can provide information about the cause of the pain.
In some cases, the type of pain indicates a cause in the area of the nerves. Then the function and conductivity of the nerve pathways can be examined in more detail by a specialist with special methods.
In rare cases, further, special examinations are used. This includes ultrasound if kidney stones are suspected or an EKG if heart disease is suspected. Because chest pain can also come from the stomach or esophagus, gastroscopy can provide clarification in this case.
Back pain: treatment, therapy & rehab
In the case of back pain, the therapy depends on the cause. Only a few cases require surgery or medication. Prevention and rehabilitation measures are often sufficient.
Prevention of back pain
Back pain can be prevented in everyday life with simple means:
- Exercise a lot (endurance sports, strength exercises, gymnastics).
- Wrong sport can harm. Avoid one-sided loads and let experts show you new exercises, for example in special courses or with a physiotherapist.
- Overweight promotes back pain. Every kilo less means less strain on your back.
- Set up seats and workplaces ergonomically so that you don’t sit with a round back and poor posture.
- Avoid stress and ensure relaxation (for example with relaxation techniques such as autogenic training or progressive muscle relaxation).
- Make sure you have a straight back when bending, lifting and carrying.
- Massages, hot water bottles and a hot bath help relieve tension.
- A balanced diet and sufficient fluids ensure elastic intervertebral discs.
Therapy for back pain
Acute back pain can almost always be treated very well. Surgery is only necessary in rare cases. Pain-relieving or muscle-relaxing drugs ensure that physical activity is possible again. Because exercise in particular helps to strengthen your back and relieve symptoms. That is why therapy always includes sport in the form of physiotherapy or special exercises. If the pain is based on other medical causes such as kidney stones or pneumonia, these diseases are treated accordingly.
Rehabilitation for back pain
Every back pain is different. Some patients with chronic pain have undergone various and unfortunately often unsuccessful treatments. In a rehabilitation (rehab), each patient receives the optimal diagnosis and therapy individually. For some, exercise and behavior to avoid pain are in the foreground. Others take part in rehab to find out more about the cause of their pain or need help getting back into work. The focus on rehabilitation can be adjusted individually.
Treatment by experts
In a specialized rehabilitation clinic for back diseases, specialists such as orthopedists, neurologists, pain therapists and psychologists work hand in hand with sports scientists, physiotherapists and occupational therapists. Together they investigate the causes of pain and define an individually tailored plan for the measures and treatments in rehab. They are always available for questions during rehab.
Exercise and relaxation
In a rehabilitation clinic you will find many offers for sports and exercise. Experts will guide you and show you how to do strengthening exercises and endurance sports properly. Training also teaches you how to move properly in everyday life. In doing so, you lay the foundation during the rehabilitation period for being pain-free in the long term. With relaxation techniques or heat treatments and massages, the muscles are relaxed and stress reduced.
Treatment of concomitant diseases
Do you suffer from other diseases? Then you are not alone. Many patients with back pain also have other problems. This can be wear and tear in the joints, depression, osteoporosis, cardiovascular diseases, severe overweight, lung diseases or the abuse of painkillers. In rehab, the doctors respond to this and adapt the treatment accordingly.
Chances of recovery and benefits of rehabilitation
Rehabilitation measures can relieve back pain sustainably and in the long term. This is confirmed by experts from the Medical Association and medical associations. In the case of acute complaints, rehab can prevent the disease from becoming chronic. In the case of chronic back pain or after operations, it helps to become fully mobile again and to be gentle on the back. Rehabilitation can even replace surgery. Studies show that previous herniated discs were operated too frequently. Today we know that in 90 percent of cases no surgery is necessary, but more gentle measures are sufficient.