Back to Basics
Back injuries are the second most frequent cause for visits to a physician's office surpassed only by the common cold and respiratory problems. Back disorders can be associated with both occupational and non-work related activities. Contributing factors can include age, gender, physical fitness level, structural abnormalities, strength, and cigarette smoking status.
Back pain is a symptom that can range from a dull, annoying ache to absolute agony. While more common in construction, you do not have to be a construction worker to have a back injury; you may as easily get injured during non-work activities. In fact, 7 out of 10 people will experience low back pain sometime during their adult life.
The most common types of back injuries are strains or sprains of the muscles, ligaments, joints, and tendons resulting from a sudden trauma (lifting a very heavy object) or repeated trauma (digging or bending for an extended period). In 80 percent of back injuries, the person will get better in a few days to a few weeks. More serious, but less common injuries are those related to the bones or discs (herniated disc) pressing against the spinal cord (nerves).
Some steps you can take to prevent initial and recurring episodes of back pain include stretching before activities, lifting by bending at the knees rather than the waist, avoid standing or working in any one position for too long, and sleeping on the side with knees drawn up
or on the back with a pillow under bent knees. Additionally, there are lifestyle preventative changes you can make such as losing weight, quitting smoking, and reducing emotional stress.
If you do sustain a back injury, limited rest combined with appropriate exercise and education is often the primary mode of therapy. Anti-inflammatory drugs - alone or in combination with analgesics, muscle relaxants, or anti-depressants - may be added to the therapy program. Acute back pain often goes away by itself in a few days or weeks. Ice or heat applied to the back may also help to alleviate pain. A physician should be notified immediately if there is no relief from pain after a few days in bed; if pain is severe or recurs; if you have radiating pain, numbness, tingling, or weakening in the arms or legs; if bowel or bladder dysfunction occurs; or if fever and/or vomiting occurs with back pain.back