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Back pain is one of the most common musculoskeletal conditions. It is estimated that 80% of people worldwide suffer of back pain at some point in their life.

Fortunately, you can take measures to relieve back pain and lessen the chances of new episodes in the future. The great majority of back pain cases can be treated with physiotherapy and do not require surgery.

Common causes of back pain

Non-specific low back pain is defined as back pain that is not attributable to a specific pathology. Approximately 85% of back pain cases belong to this category. It is well established that non-specific low back pain is multifaceted. Several factors from sedentary lifestyle, stress level, obesity and smoking can  worsen your pain. Because non-specific low back pain is not linked to any specific anatomical injury, treatment is focused on easing the pain with physiotherapy modalities ( eg. manual therapy, exercises etc.) and modifying the lifestyle contributors in order to achieve long lasting results.

Muscle strain in the lower back can happen when the amount of weight lifted exceeds the muscle capacity. It is commonly seen in unfit individuals that lift an heavy object, and in weight lifters who push their limits too far. Symptoms are muscle spasm and localized pain in the lower  back area, often worsened by bending forward and getting up after prolonged sitting or lying. Treatment involves massage, stretching and a rehabilitation program to regain flexibility and strength. Most cases of lower back muscle strain get better within 6 weeks.

Herniated lumbar disc. The spinal vertebrae ( back bones) are separated by discs that act as shock absorbers. When a disc moves out from its original position it is referred as herniated disc. A herniation compressing one of the nerves in your spine can cause pain radiating below the knee, and reduced sensation and weakness in the lower limb. Fortunately, two-thirds of herniated disc cases resolve spontaneously over time. Surgery is needed for cases of herniation causing severe neurological symptoms.

Spinal stenosis refers to narrowing of the spinal canal, which causes compression of the spinal cord. It is common in the elderly population. Common symptoms are pain after prolonged standing and walking, relieved by sitting and flexing the spine.

Less common causes of back pain

Other causes of low back pain accounts for only 5% of cases. However, it is important to recognize the symptoms of such conditions promptly since delayed medical care can cause severe and irreversible problems.

Spinal infection can be caused by surgical procedures, injections or spread through the blood stream. Patients with a compromised immune system are more likely to developing an infection in the spine.

Spinal tumors. Most spinal tumors start in another part of the body and spread to the spine. The most common tumors that metastasize to the spine are cancer in the breast, prostate kidney and lung.

Autoimmune disease. Back pain can be a symptom of an autoimmune disease, such as ankylosing spondylitis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, fibromyalgia, and others.

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