Back pain is the most common chronic musculoskeletal condition, affecting 4 million Australians (16% of the population) according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
Chronic back problems are not easy to live with. Ongoing back pain can reduce your quality of life, affect your relationships and mean you have to cut back on work or recreational activities.
Aurum Health Care’s chronic pain consultants are qualified chiropractors who through their training and experience deliver effective care in helping relieve the symptoms of back pain, correct your posture and improve your quality of life.
Seek immediate medical attention at the Emergency Department if you experience bowel or bladder changes, numbness, altered sensations around the saddle area, or are physically unable to move.
About your back
Your back is made up of several key structures that all need to be working well for your back to have the strength and flexibility you need to hold your head and body upright, to bend, and to twist your torso or turn your neck.
These hollow, bony building blocks run from the small of your back to the top of your neck. Some people may be missing vertebrae, or even have an extra vertebra due to genetics or surgery – this is taken into consideration when developing your treatment program.
Each vertebra has its own pair of facet joints that connect one vertebra to another while also enabling movement, a bit like a hinge.
Sandwiched between each vertebra is a shock-absorbing disc that allows movement and prevents your bones from rubbing together.
Your spinal cord, a tough bundle of nerves, runs through the hollow spinal column created by your vertebrae. It enables your brain and body to communicate with one another.
Many other nerves run from your spinal cord out through the spaces between your vertebrae to communicate with other parts of your body.
Muscles and ligaments
Various soft tissues support your back and help to support the weight of your upper body.
We number vertebraes as follows based on their place in your spine:
- C1-7: These are the cervical vertebrae in your neck
- T1-12: These are the 12 thoracic vertebrae from your neck to the middle of your back
- L1-5: These are the 5 vertebrae in your lower back.
- S1-S5: These are 5 fused vertebrae which are known as the sacrum.
What causes back pain?
If any part of your back isn’t working as it should, you’re likely to experience pain or difficulty moving easily.
Back pain can result from injury or from underlying medical conditions that affect your bones, discs or nerves.
Who gets back pain?
Back pain is a very common condition and most of us will experience it from time to time.
You’re at greater risk of chronic back pain if you are:
- Inactive – weak core muscles can contribute to back pain
- Overweight – carrying extra kilos puts more stress on your back
- Middle-aged or older
- A smoker – this decreases blood flow to the spine and makes you cough more, which can strain your back
- At your desk all day, especially if your posture is poor
- Required to do a lot of heavy lifting, pulling, pushing or twisting in your work.
Symptoms of back pain
Back pain varies depending on the cause.
Your pain might:
- Come and go or be relatively constant
- Be in a specific place or spread all over your back
- Radiate (travel) to your legs or buttocks
- Include numbness and tingling
- Range in intensity
- Get worse when you bend, sit or stand
- Be worse when you wake up and get easier throughout the day.
Some symptoms are signs of a more severe problem. We strongly advise that you see a doctor if you experience:
- Pain accompanied by:
- Difficulty urinating
- Weakness, pain or numbness in your legs
- Unintended weight loss.
Types of back pain
- Lumbar disc herniation
- Lumbar sprain/strain
- Lumbar facet syndrome
- Sacroiliac (SI) joint sprain/strain
Lumbar disc herniation
This condition affects the discs in your lower back. When the outer portion of the disc tears or herniates, the material inside can bulge or leak, compressing the nerves around the disc and causing pain that may radiate to your lower back and legs. There may also be swelling and chemical irritation from the release of inflammatory products.
- Sudden onset of lower back pain with or without leg pain past the knee
- Sharp, shooting or electrical pain
- Pain that worsens with coughing, sneezing or straining
- Pain following heavy lifting, twisting, straining episodes or repetitive stress trauma
- Frequent past episodes of lower back pain.
Lumbar disc herniation most commonly affects 25-45-year-old males, with the highest incidence rate reported in those 35-45 years old as the inner portion of the disc (nucleus pulposus) is most hydrated in this age group.
This condition means that you have injured the muscles or ligaments surrounding your lumbar spine (lower back), sacrum or pelvis.
You may experience:
- Lower back pain soon after an injury
- Pain that moves up into your middle back or down into your buttocks
- Reduced range of motion.
Common causes of lumbar strains and sprains include:
- Direct trauma such as a fall, car accident or sports injury
- Overuse, fatigue and repetitive microtrauma
- Prolonged poor posture at the desk
- Sudden unguarded movements
- Muscle imbalances, prior injuries, uneven leg lengths or an inappropriate increase in training levels.
Lumbar facet syndrome
This condition occurs when the facet joints that link your vertebrae together become irritated or damaged causing pain or discomfort.
You usually experience:
- Feeling off-centre or that your spine is bent in one direction
- A dull, achy pain which is localised to the lower back
- Pain that may radiate into your buttock and/or thigh.
Sacroiliac (SI) joint sprain/strain
The sacroiliac (SI) joint connects your hip bones to the sacrum, a triangular bone between the lumbar spine and the tailbone. The SI joint help to absorb shock between the upper body and the pelvis.
The SI is supported by strong ligaments and muscles including the gluteus maximus and the piriformis.
SI joint dysfunction happens if the joint:
- Moves too much, causing pain in the lower back, hips or groin and making the pelvis feel unstable
- Moves too little, causing muscle tension, pain in the lower back, buttocks or leg, and limited mobility.
Pregnant women are particularly prone to back pain linked to SI joint dysfunction. Ligaments loosen in pregnancy and that can allow the SI joint to move too much and become unstable.
The bones in your spine are connected by several small joints that keep the bones in alignment while still allowing them to move. Spondylolisthesis is caused by a problem in one or more of these small joints that allows one bone to move out of line, slipping forward over the vertebrae beneath it and squashing the nerve that sits between them.
Spondylolisthesis can be due to:
- A defective joint that you’ve had since birth
- Joint damage sustained in an accident or other trauma
- Fractures from overuse of the joints
- Degeneration due to age or overuse
This condition often appears in childhood or adolescence. While it’s most common in the lower back, it can occur in the neck too.
If you experience bowel or bladder changes, numbness, altered sensations around the saddle area, or are physically unable to move it is a medical emergency and you should seek immediate medical attention.
Aurum Health Care’s approach to chronic back pain
Persistent back pain is a type of chronic pain – an area of special interest at Aurum Health Care.
Our chiropractors will listen to your symptoms and ask you many questions. We’ll also review the results of any tests you’ve had and build a detailed picture of your overall health.
Then we’ll conduct a thorough clinical examination of your back.
Our experienced chiropractors may recommend a range of treatments to improve your back pain, including:
- Ice or heat
- Gentle exercises for you to complete at home
- Avoiding aggravating postures or activities
- Hands-on treatment to your spine.
With Aurum Health Care, you:
- Finally feel that your back pain is recognised and understood
- Gain hope that there is a way forward
- Can trust our high level of clinical expertise in chronic pain, which enables us to diagnose and treat your pain after assessing you as a whole person
- Experience streamlined care from one highly skilled chronic pain consultant
- Feel empowered by our clear explanations of your back condition and equipped to practice self-care methods alongside in-clinic treatments.