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Back pain is one of the most widespread ailments in the U.K.


It is believed that more than 17 million people in the U.K. suffer from backaches of one kind or another and the 'Health and Safety Executive' estimates that it is responsible for almost 5 million lost working days every year.

The major part of the back is the spine which is a highly complex and delicate structure that is made up of 33 small bones called vertebrae.

In between each vertebra is a disc which acts in a similar way to the shock absorbers on a car and they stop the bones from rubbing against each other. The discs are made up of a jelly like substance which in turn is protected by a strong and fibrous outer casing.

The spine is supported by very specialised back muscles and a wide array of ligaments, nerves and tendons.

So What Causes Back Pain?

Due to the back being such a complex structure it is often difficult ascertain the exact cause of most back pains but the most common cause of pain is when the back muscles begin to spasm. This often occurs after strenuous activity and can also be a reaction to repetitive strain. In short, the muscle gets damaged or irritated and then go into spasm in order to protect the area from any further injury. Spasms can be extremely painful and can also lead to a the muscles being torn if undue stress is exerted.

Physical And Mental Causes

Many cases experts believe that back pain is often a manifestation of an emotional upset rather than being simply a physical problem but other physical causes might be arthritis, fractures and infections.

Some lumbar and lower spinal pain is caused by patients having one leg longer than the other which puts the pelvis out of alignment thereby causing pain. If you suspect this, then consult a podiatrist who will measure your limbs and if necessary provide you with an 'orthoses' which is an orthopaedic appliance that is used to support, align, prevent, or correct deformities. Alternatively. he may simple suggest that you order different height shoes that will correct difference.

More serious physical causes might include a prolapsed disc or a degenerative diseases of the spine although both of these are relatively rare.

Are Certain Parts Of The Back More Susceptible To Injury?

The lower (lumbar) region of the back is particularly prone to injury because it bears the entire weight of the upper body and it also gets twisted and bent more frequently than the other parts of the back.

Is Back Pain On The Increase?

It would seem that more and more people are suffering from back problems and experts believe that a major factor is the modern tendency to lead a sedentary lifestyle. Back pain is far less common in India for example where many more people sit on the floor which causes the back muscles to find their own natural position rather than lying back on cushioned sofas which causes the back to go into many unusual and generally undesirably positions.

What Treatment Are Available?

In most cases the only medical treatment on offer is the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin.

Physiotherapy, heat therapy, massage and hydrotherapy might help but it depends on what is causing the problem.

Can I Help Prevent The Problem?

The spine is naturally curved into an S shape and the best way to keep it healthy is to try to maintain this shape as much as possible especially when performing tasks such as lifting.

Keeping fit by taking regular exercise and also doing specialised exercises that will strengthen the back muscles plus maintaining a healthy weight will also help to minimise the risk of back pain.

Buy a mattress that properly supports the body while you sleep and probably the worst thing that you can do if you have a backache is to go and lie down on your bed.