Commuting on a rough road or the number of hours you spend sitting on that unergonomic chair at work are some of the reasons for that piercing pain in your back.
If you experience that kind of pain, then do not take it lightly as it may blow up and blow you out, warns Dr Deshpande V Rajkumar, Consultant Neurosurgeon at Fortis Hospitals.
He warns that lower back pain is becoming extremely common nowadays and adds, “This, associated with radiating leg pain called Sciatica is increasing. People may also develop rarer conditions like spinal stenosis leading to compression of the spinal cord or nerve roots,” he says.
Sometimes spinal cord or nerve root tumours may also occur with similar symptoms and infections like tuberculosis may also be rarely present, he says.
He attributes the cause to bad posture or heavy weight-lifting which increases strain on the back. “These are all intervertebral disc related conditions. Lack of exposure to sunlight causes osteoporosis,” he says.
“And such cases are rising due to lack of awareness among young professionals who have long working hours and don’t exercise. Commuting on bad roads has a negative impact. The worst affected are the middle-aged people,” he says.
Advising not to neglect symptoms, he says that if the back pain persists even after medication, you need to visit a doctor.
Dr N C Prakash, Senior Consultant (neuro and spine) and Surgeon at Hospital for Orthopaedics, Sports Medicine, Arthritis and Trauma (HOSMAT) says that sitting jobs, travelling on bad roads, lack of exercise coupled with nutritional deficiencies are causing a rise in back problems.
“When there are lack of breaks between work, a poor sitting posture, bad chairs and stress, back ache is inevitable, especially among IT professionals,” he adds.
Dr Prakash opines that while back pain does occur during menstruation, it is not related to spinal pathology. He adds that schoolchildren are also affected by this issue.
“We see cases of kids having severe backache as they carry heavy bags. Some schools are still following the old method of making kids carry a lot of books. The school administration needs to be counselled on the health implications of this rule,” he points out.
He named slipped disc, sports related injuries and fibro-myalgia as common back problems. A majority of back pains (nearly 80 per cent) can be treated with proper medications, lifestyle modifications, exercises and physiotherapy, Dr Prakash says.
If the patient does not respond to conservative methods, surgical intervention may be required.
Sometimes, damage to parts of your spine can be the cause of back pain, says Dr Thimmappa Hegde, Head of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Narayana Health City. This includes:
■ A slipped (herniated) disc - when a disc bulges so that it puts pressure on your spinal nerves.
■ A fracture - a break in one of the bones of the back.
■ Osteoporosis - a condition where bones lose density causing them to become weak and compress
■ Spinal stenosis - a condition in which the channels that house the spinal nerves become narrow
■ Spondylolisthesis - when one of your back bones slips forward and out of position
■ Degenerative disc disease - When the discs in your spinal cord gradually wears down
■ Osteoarthritis - A wear-and-tear disease that can particularly affect the joints of your spine
■ Rheumatoid arthritis - An inflammatory condition in which your immune system causes inflammation of the lining of your joints and surrounding structures
Spinal surgery does not cripple
Dispelling the myths that a spinal surgery makes a person handicapped, he says that with the increase in expertise, modern gadgets and minimally invasive procedures, recovery is well assured. “Patients are getting back to work in few days and leading a normal lifestyle,” he adds.
Dr Naresh Shetty, Professor of Orthopedics, M S Ramaiah Medical College and Hospital says that backache is the fifth most common cause of hospitalisation and surgery.
“It is also the second most frequently reported reason for visiting a doctor,” he observes.
While the causes for backache in younger people is disc prolapse, in the elderly it is due to osteoporosis. Other causes are infections, like tuberculosis, renal stones or in women due to gynaecological problems. Quite a few could be also due to trauma.
“The best way to prevent it is through back exercises, good posture and a healthy diet. The usual treatments recommended are bed rest, pain killers, physiotherapy and sometimes back support while sitting. Calcium and supplements may be required for women,” he says.
Dr Yogesh Pithwa, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at HOSMAT says that most backaches and neck pains are related to occupational conditions. “Only if the pain starts going down into the hands/ legs, if pain in the back wakes you up in the middle of night from sound sleep, you have fever, if you find an abnormal bony bump in the back, if pain refuses to improve despite adequate care, then it may indicate something more than just occupational and lifestyle factors,” he adds.