In Germany, around 11 million people suffer from acute or chronic back pain. It is now regarded as being a new common disease: Ever more working hours at the PC, stress and lack of exercise are frequent causes of a pain in the back. The number of patients with chronic back pain has more than doubled over the previous ten years. Fortunately, there is a whole range of gentle treatment procedures that can successfully ease the pain and make the backs of those affected mobile again. Here you can find out all you need to know about the causes, symptoms and prevention of back pain as well as treatment possibilities.
What causes back pain?
There are many causes of back pain. As well as a lack of exercise and one-sided posture in the office, stress and the muscle tension that results from it have a negative effect on the health of your back. It is also hardly possible to deny the connection between back pain and being overweight. Around 60 per cent of the ailments concern the lower back and thus start in the lumbar spine (LS) which is made up of five vertebral bodies. Additionally, back pain can originate in the region of the thoracic spine (TS) and the cervical spine (CS), although this occurs significantly less frequently.
An overview of the causes of back pain:
- Lack of exercise
- Muscle tension
- Being overweight
- Symptoms of wear on the spine
- Whiplash injury after an accident
- Spinal disc herniation
- Vertebral fracture
- Tumours & metastases
- Paget’s disease (osteitis deformans)
- Circulatory disturbances in the spinal cord
What are the symptoms of back pain?
Most cases of back pain are harmless and go away by themselves. Pain in the back can occur suddenly (lumbago), as a result of a rapid or awkward movement for example. But it can also develop gradually. What is more, those afflicted also often suffer from additional accompanying symptoms such as:
- Muscle pain
- Stabbing or sharp pain
- Pain that radiates down into the legs
- Limited mobility
- Problems in standing up
- Lady with back pain
- Patient with back pain, relieving posture
The relieving posture that people with back pain often adopt is also problematic: The patient avoids the painful movement and this relieving posture means that the muscles affected become tense or recede. This results in the pain becoming even stronger and the patient moving even less. A vicious circle begins. In this regard, prompt treatment also becomes important so the back pain does not become chronic – an ailment is regarded as chronic if the pain lasts more than three months. The following rule of thumb applies here:
If the back pain has been continuing for longer than two weeks you should have the cause clarified by an experienced orthopaedic doctor specialising in disorders of the spine!
How is back pain treated?
The treatment of back pain primarily aims to enable patients to be free of pain as soon as possible and to continue their everyday life as usual. The treatment itself depends on the individual causes and the intensity of the symptoms:
These measures help to combat back pain:
- Heat applications
- Pain-relieving medication (including injections)
- Targeted relaxation
- Sport and exercise
- Surgical therapy
Muscle tension is often the cause if the back pain is only mild. Heat helps to soothe this so that the muscles are able to relax again. In more persistent cases, pain therapy can be a sensible treatment measure to restore mobility to normal, thereby avoiding relieving postures.
In the event of severe or acute back pain, we use image intensifier-guided injections to achieve fast pain relief. To do this we inject a pain-inhibiting and, if required, anti-inflammatory medication directly into the affected area. This mostly enables us to achieve rapid pain relief using lower quantities of medication and avoiding a costly and stressful operation.
Your advantage with us: customised treatment concept
You enjoy several advantages in our four medical care centres: As an interdisciplinary centre of excellence, we consider patients holistically and not only from the perspective of the respective medical discipline. Our doctors work together on an interdisciplinary basis and undergo continual further training at an international level, in order to offer you the best possible state-of-the-art treatment. We also spare you unnecessary follow-up appointments because all the examinations you need will normally be carried out on the same day at our premises. This means that you receive a treatment concept tailored to your needs as fast as possible. By the way, we also regard an operation as the very last resort and only contemplate this if conservative or minimally-invasive measures do not bring any relief.
How to prevent back pain
The 5 most important tips to combat back pain:
- When lifting heavy loads: Always bend the knees and keep your back straight
- Make sure that the mattress and slatted frame of your bed are suitable
- Ensure that your workplace is ergonomic
- Reduce excess weight
- In an office job: Stand up and move around numerous times each day
Exercise, i.e. physical activity, is the most important requirement for a strong back and a healthy functioning spine without back pain. Exercise boosts your circulation, allowing more warming blood to flow through your back muscles, your spine becomes more supple; tension and spasms are removed. New muscle mass develops that protects the entire spinal column.
Back exercises are a good option to strengthen the back muscles. If the exercises are carried out regularly, painful muscle tensions are released and the back muscles are strengthened. Learn the exercises from a specialist at a gym or in the context of a back health course. Do not do practice the exercises by yourself if you are inexperienced – this could do more harm than good.
The right bed
Having the right bed is a decisive factor in preventing back pain. The slatted frame, mattress and pillows should be carefully chosen and of high quality. It is best to take the advice of a specialist. If you mostly sleep on your side, the mattress should be soft enough to allow your shoulders and pelvis to sink down so far that your spine is lying straight. The right pillows ensure that your cervical vertebrae are lying at the level of the spine. If you sleep together with someone in one bed, each person should have their own mattress and slatted frame so that they sleep on the surface that suits them best.
Car driving without back pain
The numerous tremors and mini-knocks that occur when driving a car affect the natural vibrations of the spine and expose the spinal column to increased long-term stress. This can lead to back pain when driving. In order to prevent this, car seats must be able to absorb tremors well and adapt to the leg length. A good car seat, therefore, has the following adjustment options:
- The seat height and depth should be adjustable from the backrest to the front seat edge and capable of being adapted ergonomically to the needs of the driver with a few hand movements
- The inclination of the seating surface should be adjustable
- The backrest should be padded to reduce jolts and be adjustable both vertically and horizontally
- The armrests should be wide, well padded and adjustable on both sides, as should the neck support
Preventing back pain at the office
It is nearly always incorrect sitting or body posture and – physiologically speaking – completely unsuitable office furniture that leads to back problems at the office: Around 85 per cent of all people working in offices are sitting at their desks either temporarily or permanently in a completely incorrect ergonomic way. There are simple tips that can help:
- The writing desk is at an ideal height if your lower arms are lying flat and forming a right angle with your upper arms. The writing desk should be height-adjustable if possible because people are of different heights. The work surface should offer a sufficient width of about 160 centimetres, should not have a reflective surface and ideally tilt slightly backwards, and also be adjustable. This prevents a permanently cramped up posture at the PC.
- The office chair is your most important piece of furniture in the office! It should be padded, with a rounded front edge, and the seat should be large enough to accommodate the entire buttocks without the person needing to slide back and forth to find a sitting position in the first place. No edges should press on the thighs to ensure that the blood circulation of the legs is not restricted. It should be possible to move the seat forwards and backwards, but the backrest should be curved forward a little to support the lumbar vertebrae and not let them sag backwards.