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Low Back Ache & Neck Pain

Low Back Ache

Low back pain is the pain felt in the lower back that may originate from muscles, nerves, bones, joints or other structures in the spine. Low back pain is one of the most common medical problems experienced by most people at some time in their life. People with low back pain may have difficulty to perform everyday activities. Low back pain can be acute usually lasting from few days to few weeks, or chronic lasting for more than three months.

Low back pain is caused by lifting heavy objects or overload, sitting or standing for a longer time, direct blow over the area, or sports such as basketball, baseball, or golf that involve sudden twisting of lower back. The risk factors such as excess low back curvature, weak abdominal muscles, and forwardly tilted pelvis can increase the risk of low back pain. The common symptoms include low back pain that radiates down to the buttocks; inflammation of the soft tissues that surround the muscles; stiffness in the low back; restricted movements; inability to maintain correct posture; muscle spasms; and pain which continues for a longer period.

To identify the source of your low back pain you must discuss your symptoms as well as any exacerbating and relieving factors with your doctor. Your doctor will also perform a physical examination and if necessary imaging studies such as X-rays, MRIs, or CT scans will also be ordered to confirm the diagnosis.

Back pain that is caused due to straining of the lower back musculature will usually resolve with rest and activity modification. Applying a heating pad to the area will also provide added relief. If there is evidence of nerve irritation, a nerve block which contains a steroid can be administered. Other conservative treatment options include over-the-counter and prescription pain medication, temporary use of a back brace, physical therapy, and occupational therapy. If your pain symptoms do not resolve after trying these non-surgical treatments, you may be a candidate for surgery. Surgical repair may involve removal of a herniated disc, widening of the space around your spinal cord, or fusion of vertebrae.

Prevention

Some of the preventive measures which can help prevent low back pain include:

  • Doing warm up exercises before the start of any physical activity or sports and taking short breaks in between the activity.
  • Ensure that you use correct lifting techniques such as squatting to lift a heavy object.
  • Ensure that you maintain a proper posture while sitting and standing.
  • If you are overweight or obese, it can strain the back muscles. Hence it is advised that you lose some weight and maintain a healthy diet.
  • Exercise everyday as it improves spine stability and also prevents extra stress on your back.

Neck Pain

The cervical spine comprises of the first 7 vertebrae. It supports the weight of the head and allows its smooth movement. Neck pain refers to pain or discomfort resulting from abnormalities or injuries to any of the structures in the neck including the muscles, ligaments, nerves, bones and vertebral joints. Neck pain is one of the most common health problems experienced by individuals, at some point of their lives.

Neck pain can either be a dull constant pain or a sudden sharp pain and is usually aggravated by movement. Apart from pain you may also experience muscle spasms, clumsy hand movements, gait and balance disturbances, numbness or tingling sensation, stiff neck, and swelling and tenderness over the affected region. Neck pain may also be associated with headache, dizziness, jaw pain, ringing sensation in the ears, and rarely bowel or bladder problems.

Neck pain may either be localized to the neck or may radiate to the shoulders, upper back, or arms. Cervical radiculopathy refers to the pain that originates in the neck and radiates to the arms.

Causes

Neck pain can result from muscle strain or sprain, trauma, poor posture and body mechanics, degenerative diseases, nerve compression, osteoarthritis of the cervical spine, infection of the cervical spine, and spinal tumours.

Diagnosis

The diagnosis for neck pain is based on the medical history along with a physical examination and neurological examination. Your doctor will test your sensations, reflexes, and the strength of the muscles. Other imaging tests such as an X-ray or CT scan may also be may be used to confirm the diagnosis and detect any spinal fractures.

Treatment

In a majority of the cases, neck pain can be resolved without a surgery. Conservative treatments such as activity modifications, anti-inflammatory and pain medications, muscle relaxants, spinal injections, physical therapy, braces, and chiropractic care may help alleviate pain and associated symptoms. Your doctor may recommend combining two or more therapies to maximize the chances of a successful treatment outcome. Surgery may be necessary for those who do not respond to conservative treatment or have cervical spine instability or neurologic dysfunction.

Prevention

You can prevent or improve your neck pain by following these simple steps:

  • Perform relaxation exercises to reduce the undesirable stress on the neck muscles.
  • Stretching exercises should be performed before and after exercise.
  • Maintain a good posture.
    • ┬áIf you work at a computer adjust the monitor to your eye level. Stretch your neck frequently.
  • If you use the telephone often, use a headset.
  • Use a pillow that keeps your neck straight.
  • Wear seat belts and use bike helmets to reduce injuries while driving or riding.