The spine ( or backbone ) extends from the base of your skull to the buttocks. It consists of more than 20 separate called vertebrae stacked on top of one another. A flexible disc sits in between each pair of vertebrae. The vertebrae and discs are held together by ligaments. The spinal cord and the nerves run through the center of the spinal column.
Most people suffer from mild back pain from time to time and the exact cause of which may be difficult to diagnose. It is usually a sign that one or more muscles, joints, ligaments or discs are over-stretched or twisted by movement of the back in an awkward position. Severe pain may be the result of pressure on nerves from the misalignment of the bones in the back and warrants immediate medical attention. Low back pain afflicts some 80 % of the adult population some time or other in their lives.
Many episodes of pain last only several hours or a day or two. By and large, 90% of patients should have recovered from their initial attack of pain by 6 weeks from the onset.
As a person gets older, a process called degeneration, the nucleus in the lower few discs of the low back . As a result , the discs are less capable of cushioning the spine , especially during repeated stressful activities. The capsule or annulus can then tear and cause pain. This is known as a slipped disc.
In a slipped disc, the annulus tears with different degrees of severity. Small tears heal quickly. Large tears can cause a small portion of the nucleus herniating through the tear to lie outside the wall of the disc. If this herniation is close to a nerve, intense irritation of the nerve can occur. "Sciatica "or feelings of pain, aching, numbness, "coldness ', paraesthesia or pins and needles of the thigh and calf may occur. This can involve one or both legs. Properly performed manual treatment using massage, mobilisation and manipulation may often be helpful in reducing the severity of low back pain.
Most cases recover without the need for surgery. As mentioned earlier, 90 % patients recover within 6 weeks. However a small group of patients have a significant portion of the nucleus that has herniated out of the annulus of the disc to compress the nerve and removal of the herniated fragment of disc will result in more rapid recovery of symptoms than without.
Aside from a prolapsed disc, what other causes of recurrent back and leg pains are there?
Spinal canal stenosis and spondylolisthesis are 2 other common causes of recurrent back and leg pains . In older people, a condition termed as lumbar spondylosis, ( the facet joints of the spine can wear out ) can result in episodic back pains. Osteoporosis or softening of the bones can occur in the elderly, resulting in back pains. Patients who have had a previous history of cancer elsewhere, and having persistent back pains, should seek a medical opinion. Less commonly conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylosis and various types of infections can also afflict the spine.
My back is often sore at the end of a day's work. How can I prevent this?
Modification of activity or the work environment may be required. It is often how the person does that results in unnecessary stress to the back. Such instruction can be provided by the doctor or the therapist , either as an individual or in groups of patients attending "Back Care " classes.
I am already doing a full day's work. I also jog and play tennis Why do I need other exercises?
Work, no matter how strenous, is not exercise. In fact, some jobs especially those that involve repeated lifting or bending, or prolonged standing or sitting, add to the stress over the spine. Jogging, racquet games, golf, etc. may be good for general health and fitness but do not significantly exercise or strengthen the back. A balanced programme which includes improving the flexibility and strength of the back will help to prevent recurrent injuries.