Understanding different types of Back Pain
There are countless causes of back pain , from lifting the children up, to bending over a laptop. However it happens, the pain can be unbearable and cause real disruption to daily life.
An important step in managing back pain is to understand the basics of back pain.
Upper back pain
Back pain may originate from either the upper back (the thoracic spine area as shown in below picture) or the lower back (lumbar spine area as shown in below picture)
Upper back pain can be felt in the top half of the back and in the shoulders and neck.
This can be caused by damage to ligaments and tendons that have been overstretched, for example during a vehicle accident, or during a workout. The large muscles of the upper back are also prone to muscle irritation, or myofascial pain, due to daily wear and tear, or simply lack of strength.
Poor posture, obesity, and weak abdominal muscles can all disrupt spinal balance further, causing the neck to bend forward to compensate. Likewise, stress and emotional tension can cause muscles to tighten and contract. Postural stress in particular can contribute to chronic pain in the neck, upper back and the arms.
To tackle pain in the upper back consider talking to a physician or a chiropractor about posture, particularly in the workplace. Exercises and relaxation techniques may also help relieve recurring joint irritation and tension in the muscles of the neck and upper back.
Lower back pain
In contrast, lower back pain, is felt at the base of the back. Lower back pain may occur from lifting something too heavy, from overstretching the lower back muscles, or from direct injury or trauma. These events can cause a sprain or strain in the lower back, leading to pain and sometimes muscle spasms. Excessive weight, smoking and stress may also contribute to lower back pain.
Occasionally, lower back pain can be the result of certain conditions, including bone diseases, arthritis, viral infection, or spine abnormalities.
To treat lower back pain – Safe, low-impact exercises like swimming or walking can also help speed recovery by strengthening back and abdominal muscles.
Acute versus chronic back pain
Regardless of the location, back pain can be classified further as either acute or chronic, based on how long the pain lasts. Upper or lower back pain may be either acute or chronic in nature.
Acute back pain is short-term pain, typically lasting from a few days to a few weeks. Most acute pain is the result of trauma to the back or from a condition like arthritis. Acute pain symptoms range from shooting or stabbing pain, to mild muscle aches, limited flexibility and range of motion, and inability to stand up straight.
If back pain lasts for 3 months or more, it is considered chronic back pain. Chronic back pain is often progressive, meaning it gets worse over time. The cause of chronic pain can be hard to determine and usually requires treatment from a medical professional.
With any type of back pain, prevention, when possible, is important for long-term health. Preventive measures include maintaining proper posture, staying at a healthy weight, and using a combination of strengthening exercises.
Applying the principles of ergonomics can also reduce the risk of back injury and pain.
Ergonomics is a way of designing furniture and tools to prevent bodily injury — at the office and at home.
If you have questions about back pain, or the available treatment options, talk to your healthcare provider.