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Back Pain: Statistics, Types, Symptoms, Causes, Risk Factors & Treatment

The human back is the region of the body between the neck and the pelvis, and is responsible for maintaining upright posture, bending, sitting, standing, twisting, and so much more. The back includes large and small muscles and bones, and the spinal cord with nerves entering and exiting. With all of these muscles, nerves, bones, and movements, it is no surprise that back pain is one of the most common problems among Americans.

Back Pain Statistics

Between 70% and 85% of American adults experience low back pain at some point during their lives. In fact, according to the NIH, Americans spend at least $50 billion each year trying to relieve it! 

Here is some more information about the most prevalent types of back pain:

1. Low Back Pain

Low back pain can differ greatly from one person to the next. It can be mild or severe, short-lived or long-lasting, intermittent or constant, and have a slow or sudden onset. Low back pain makes many every day activities extremely difficult to do. 

Causes of Low Back Pain

Common causes of low back pain include: 

  1. Degenerative changes in the spine that can start in our 30s or earlier
  2. Soreness from over activity
  3. Disc injuries such as tears or herniations (“slips”) or disc degeneration
  4. Structure changes in the vertebral column that increase pressure on a nerve root
  5. Degenerative Spondylolisthesis (hypermobile vertebrae moving out of alignment)
  6. Spinal stenosis (space around spinal cord narrows and increases pressure)
  7. Scoliosis

2. Herniated Disc

Between most of the vertebrae in the spine, there are vertebral discs. When a disc moves out of alignment (“slips”) or the external layer of a disc tears (“ruptures”), the condition is called a herniated disc. A herniation may also occur when the central part of the disc pushes through the disc’s outer layer. Herniated discs increase the pressure placed on the nerves that are in or exiting the spinal canal. This can lead to weakness, pain, and/or numbness in the neck, arms, legs and low back. 

Symptoms of Herniated Discs

Symptoms of a herniated disc frequently occur on one side of the body and include:  

  • Pain, numbness, and weakness in the back, hip, thigh, leg, or foot pain
  • Pain at night that disrupts sleep
  • Pain with bending, twisting, sitting, standing, or walking
  • Pain with sneezing, laughing, or coughing

Risk Factors for Herniated Discs

Certain risk factors increase your chance of getting a herniated disc: 

  1. Smoking
  2. Excessive body weight
  3. Poor body mechanics, especially when lifting
  4. Repetitive strenuous activities such as lifting, bending, pushing, pulling, or twisting

3. Sciatica

Sciatica is a condition where the sciatic nerve becomes irritated. The sciatic nerve travels from the low back down each leg, and when aggravated, can cause leg and low back pain. This aggravation of the nerve can be caused by spinal stenosis, disc herniation, post-operative scarring, or a misaligned SI joint. 

Symptoms of Sciatica

Symptoms of sciatica may be felt down one leg and include: 

  1. low back pain
  2. burning or tingling sensations
  3. numbness
  4. weakness
  5. pain that intensifies with movement 

4. Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a very common joint disorder characterized by wear and tear on the bones of a joint. This can cause the joint’s cartilage to break down and/or cause the contacting surfaces of the joint to lose the smoothness of their interface. These changes occur from age, overuse, genetic predisposition, obesity, and previous joint injury. When osteoarthritis occurs between vertebrae of the back, nerves entering and exiting the spinal cord can become compressed or damaged. Osteoarthritis in the cervical (neck) vertebrae can irritate nerves and cause radiating pain in the shoulders, arms, and hands. Osteoarthritis in the lumbar (low back) vertebrae can irritate nerves and cause radiating pain in the pelvis and down the legs.   

5. Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease and a chronic disorder where the immune system attacks healthy tissues leading to inflammation and degenerative changes within joints. Rheumatoid arthritis can cause pain throughout the entire body and the pain tends to be felt bilaterally (on both sides of the body). Inflammation around the joints in the back can cause symptoms similar to osteoarthritis. There may be decreased range of motion, more swelling, pain, and inflammation, and the affected joints may feel warm.  

6. Scoliosis

Scoliosis is a common disorder, among children and adults, where the spine is abnormally curved, often in an “S” or “C” shape. Scoliosis can cause muscular imbalances and fascia restriction, and those who are not surgical candidates may benefit from physical therapy.

Back Pain Treatment

ASTR treats back pain in a gentle, effective, and natural way by addressing muscle imbalances and fascia restriction which are often the source of the pain. ASTR takes a holistic approach to address the root causes of pain, not just the symptoms. ASTR treatment can be done at home for back pain.

Back Pain Home Treatment

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