At some point in life, almost everybody will experienced a sore back or neck. However, back and neck pain are cited as the cause of 25 percent of long-term sick leave and 20 percent of disability pensions granted in Denmark. There are therefore many good reasons for to avoid neck and back pain. Unfortunately, doctors know very little about the causes of back and neck pain, and they do not really know precisely how we can prevent neck and back pain.
Only one in five of people who seek medical attention for a sore back will get a specific diagnosis, e.g. fracture, arthritis, whiplash, or similar. Between 80 and 85 percent of patients never receive an explanation for their pain. Some people do find the cause, which is often heavy gardening or awkward/heavy lifting.
Seek medical attention – What’s wrong with me?
If you have back pain, it is important that you talk to your doctor or a physiotherapist. When you seek medical attention, you find out if back pain is due to a serious medical condition, such as a slipped disc. However, a doctor will not always find it possible to make an accurate diagnosis.
Spinal (back) pain can occur in three areas:
– the lower back
– the thoracic spine (middle section)
– the neck.
The entire spine – from the lower edge of the skull to the pelvis – is regarded as a single entity. In many cases, people who have problems in one part of the spine later develop problems in other parts. Most people start out with a sore lower back, which spreads to the neck. Back problems that start in the middle section of the back are rarer.
Under normal circumstances, you will have no reason to take time off work due to back pain. Of course, if you work with heavy lifting, you should stay home from work. If you can, re-organize your work so that you can stand up instead of sitting down all day (or vice versa). If you can, take a walk during the workday. We recommend that you vary your movements.
Back pain has many causes
Back pain goes by many names. Fortunately, in the vast majority of cases, back pain is not due to anything serious.
Other names for back pain are:
• Facet Syndrome
• Spinal myosis
• Neck Problems
More serious back problems that require medical attention:
• Bechterew’s disease
• Scheuermann’s disease
• Spinal stenosis
In rare cases, back pain may be due to cancer, e.g. in the bone marrow.
Back problems often start in childhood
Regardless of where pain is located, there are a number of common features of back pain. Back problems often start at the same point in life, have virtually the same pattern of progression and have the same consequences. The risk of disability or sick leave is the same no matter where your back injury and no matter where you feel pain.
Research shows that back problems start much earlier than previously thought
For many years, research focused on middle-aged men and women. It was assumed that the primary cause of back pain is work-related. Recent research shows that early intervention can prevent and pain later in life.
So if you really want to prevent back pain in your own or your children’s lives, take good care of your spines from an early age!
Be active – your body will thank you
We do not know much about why so many of us get back pain. There are many things you can do after your teenage years to alleviate pain and strengthen your back. It is good to be physically active throughout life.
Keeping in shape is important as exercise keeps the back strong and stable. To reduce pain, you should prioritise physical activity in everyday life. Choose one or more sports that you really like and that make you feel good. Your physiotherapist can give you specific exercises to minimise or even prevent future attacks of back pain.
Mechanical overload is often the cause of acute back pain, e.g. an unfortunate wrench that pulls or strains a muscle, or an overstretched muscle in the back or neck. A doctor, physiotherapist or other therapist will examine you to establish whether the pain can be provoked and where the precise seat of the pain.
Chronic back pain
If you have chronic pain, your doctor will try to discover whether there is a more complex cause. He or she can prescribe a comprehensive medical examination. The biological, mental and social causes will be examined.
You may also be offered analgesic (pain relief) treatment. Such as:
• Ice and heat
• Back exercises.
What can you do?
If you have a sore back, it is important that you remain active. Do back exercises. You should never lie in bed for more than a day or two. It is best to avoid taking to your bed at all. An acute back problem should not normally last more than six weeks.
• Keep active. Avoid taking to your bed.
• If you have cricked your back or neck, it will often help to apply an ice bag to the affected spot for 10-15 minutes. Repeat at hourly intervals 5-6 times a day during the first couple of days.
• Many people find that exercising the lower back and stomach helps
• Make sure that you always use appropriate lifting techniques
• Make sure your working postures are varied
• Take painkillers to make it easier for you to move your back
• Wrap the painful area in a warm electric cushion or blanket
• Do gentle lumbar exercises, e.g. the cat and camel exercise (on all fours, alternately bending and rounding your back)
• If you have severe and persistent back pain, seek medical advice from your doctor, a physiotherapist or chiropractor