Top Causes of Back Pain (and why a massage is not always a good idea)
Back pain can affect anyone at any age. Working adults, however, are more likely to suffer from it. According to estimates, 60 to 90 percent of people suffer from low back pain at some point in their lives, with work being the most common cause. In addition, manual handling is responsible for 77 percent of back pain cases.
The number of people suffering from back pain is steadily increasing, which is alarming indeed. That’s because back pain prevents us from having a good posture, and may be indicative of an unhealthy spine. A healthy spine is essential for mobility; back pain or discomfort make it challenging to perform our daily tasks.
But how and why does back pain occur? And what are your treatment options?
Back pain often arises because something is off in how the spinal joints, discs, muscles, and nerves fit together and move. It happens due to problems with the structural or mechanical functions of the joints, injury, joint wear and tear, degenerative diseases, or medical conditions.
Back Pain Causes
Back pain can stem from a multitude of factors, including:
Muscle or ligament strain. One of the most common causes of back pain is muscle or ligament strain. This happens due to repeated heavy lifting or an abrupt awkward movement, which can strain spinal ligaments and back muscles. Further, even a single instance of improper lifting or overstressing the back muscles can cause chronic, debilitating back pain.
Herniated or slipped disc. A disc acts as a cushion between the bones in the spine. In the spine, a slipped disc occurs when the soft cushion of tissue pushes out between the bones. A slipped disc, also known as a bulging or ruptured disc, may compress a spinal nerve, causing numbness and pain.
Degenerative disc conditions. Degenerative disc conditions, such as arthritis and spondylosis are age-related wear-and-tear of the spinal disc and can cause back pain. For example, when spinal arthritis causes the narrowing of the space around the spinal cord, it leads to a condition called spinal stenosis. In addition, genetics, injury, and health or lifestyle factors can accelerate the degeneration of the spine, causing pain and musculoskeletal disorders.
Osteoporosis. It occurs when the bones in the spine have broken, struggling to support the body’s weight. It starts as painful breaks when the bones have become brittle. One of the most common risk factors of osteoporosis is age, usually starting at around 30 to 40.
Lack of exercise. Inactivity is a major cause of back pain due to the weak and unused muscles in the back and abdomen. In addition, not moving can make the back stiff and painful. Hence, regular exercise can cause shorter and less frequent episodes of back pain.
Excessive weight. Being overweight or obese puts you at a significant risk of back pain since extra weight strains the spine. As you gain weight, your spinal ligaments and muscles are stressed more. As a result, the spine tends to tilt unevenly. Further, too much abdominal weight can exacerbate lumbar lordosis, resulting in lower back pain.
Poor posture and improper lifting. Unsupported postures cause the weight on the spine to disperse unevenly. As a result, the tissues in the lower back can weaken. Thus, the intricate network of muscles, joints, and discs is stretched beyond its tolerable limit, causing pain. Furthermore, improper lifting can cause back problems.
Smoking. Several studies have shown the link between cigarette smoking and back pain. For instance, a study by researchers at Milligan University found that people who smoked more cigarettes had a higher prevalence of back pain.
Psychological conditions. There is growing evidence that chronic back pain can cause physical and emotional distress. In fact, it has been found that people with mental health issues like depression and anxiety are at a significantly higher risk of back pain. Also, a wide range of back pain symptoms, including tension, stiffness, spasms, and soreness, can be caused by stress and anxiety.
Sports injuries. Athletes are more likely to experience back pain, especially those involved in sports like diving, gymnastics, golf, football, rowing, and weightlifting. Gymnastics has an 11% incidence of back injuries; it can be as high as 50% in football.
Chiropractor vs Massage – Which is Better for Back Pain Relief?
Chiropractic Care – Eliminating the root cause of pain
Though both methods aim to relieve back pain, they differ in many ways.
Chiropractic treatment is performed by a Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) certified through a specialised university programme. Chiropractors are trained to diagnose and treat disorders of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems. They are trained in handling spinal issues, including manipulation and adjusting the musculoskeletal system, which encompasses the spinal column, tendons, muscles, and surrounding joints.
Further, chiropractic treatment is founded on the idea that well-functioning joints, muscles, and spine impact overall health. Targeting the root cause of chronic pain improves physical function and motion and supports the body’s ability to heal. Additionally, chiropractic care is a restorative approach intended to correct the underlying causes of pain, such as misalignments and compressions of the spine, joints, muscles, and nerves.
Chiropractic care is a patient-centred, non-invasive, and regulated healthcare profession focused on aligning the spine and specific joints. Chiropractors aim to relieve pain and discomfort in the back by applying a controlled, sudden force to a spinal joint. They use their hands or a chiropractic adjustment tool called an activator to manipulate the joints of the body, focusing on treating back pain, neck problems, and even headaches.
In addition, chiropractors utilise diagnostic tools to determine problem areas. Early detection of these problems will help relieve pain that can hinder your ability to perform daily tasks.
Spinal health is essential since it’s an extension of the brain, which communicates messages throughout the body. Hence, it would help if you discuss any pain or discomfort with your chiropractor as they are trained to detect the root cause of your back pain.
Massage Therapy – Providing Pain Relief
A massage is performed by a licensed massage therapist who manipulates the body’s soft tissues, including the muscles, ligaments, tendons, and skin. It is done by applying direct pressure on muscle groups to relieve pain, promote healing, and encourage relaxation.
Massage treatment is therapeutic and focuses on stimulating or relaxing muscles in order to relieve pain. It also enhances mood. But massages do not treat or address issues with the spine, joints, and tendons.
In short, massage therapy can only provide short-term relief from back pain — it does not treat the underlying issues of pain. Chiropractic, on the other hand, seeks to identify the root problem that is causing the back pain with the goal of eliminating the back pain in the long term, and not merely providing temporary short term pain relief.
Here are some helpful steps to prevent back pain and protect your spine.
Improve your physical condition. Physical fitness is the best way to prevent back pain. Exercise regularly and perform stretching or strengthening exercises. In addition, perform low-impact aerobic exercises that won’t add more strain to the back. These exercises are designed to enhance endurance and strength in the back. Other activities you can do include cycling, walking, and swimming.
Build muscle strength and flexibility. One way to prevent back problems is to build muscle strength, especially in your core muscles. In addition, back and abdominal exercises help condition muscles to support the back better.
Practise proper body mechanics. Practise how to use the body properly. Poor body mechanics can cause back problems since the spine will be subjected to abnormal stresses.
Pay attention to your posture. When standing, balance your weight evenly on your feet. Stand smart, and don’t slouch. Always maintain a neutral pelvic position. You can reduce back muscle stress with these simple methods. Keep the knees and hips level when sitting and choose an ergonomic chair with good lower back support.
Watch your weight. Since obesity can put excessive stress on the back, maintain a healthy weight by eating right, exercising regularly, and staying within 10 pounds of your ideal weight.
Quit smoking. Smoking restricts nutrient-rich blood flow to the spinal discs, making smokers vulnerable to back pain.
Avoid heavy lifting. If you must lift something heavy, make sure to observe body mechanics. Let your legs do the work. To pick up the item, bend your legs and lift it slowly without bending your back.
The bottom line
Back pain affects millions of people worldwide and it’s one of the major reasons why people seek medical help. Identifying the root cause of the pain can help health practitioners decide on the proper treatment needed.
The benefits of massage are temporary compared with chiropractic care, which targets the root cause of pain. Targeting the underlying cause is crucial to providing pain relief and improved quality of life. In addition to limiting your ability to perform daily tasks, living with pain can affect your mental and emotional well-being. Therefore, you will be able to live your life to the fullest if you choose a method that will provide you with a long-term pain fix.
Kissun Chiropractic is a trusted and leading Chiropractic clinic in Singapore, offering affordable and effective treatments for all ages in the community. Their chiropractors are certified and registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). Further, they have established many years of experience in treating patients with back pain effectively in Singapore. They are also experienced in treating routine and complex neuromusculoskeletal conditions such as headaches, neck, shoulder aches, osteoarthritis, scoliosis, sciatica, pregnancy aches and pains, sports injuries, performing ergonomic assessments and postural checks. Patients’ conditions are managed through natural, safe, non-invasive, drug and surgery-free treatments, relying on the bodies’ inherent recuperative functions. Treatment plans are customised to patients’ specific needs and preferences.
Contact us today!
- WSH Institute (Workplace Safety and Health Institute). Overview of back pain cases inSingapore from 2013 – 2015. https://www.mom.gov.sg/-/media/mom/files/pdf/wshi-past-posters/overview-of-back-pain-cases-in-singapore-from-2013–2015-(2017).pdf
- Green, B.N., Johnson, C.D., Snodgrass, J. et al. Association Between Smoking and Back Pain in a Cross-Section of Adult Americans. Cureus. https://www.cureus.com/articles/5220-association-between-smoking-and-back-pain-in-a-cross-section-of-adult-americans
- Petering, R. and Webb, C. (2011). Treatment Options for Low Back Pain in Athletes. Sports Health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3445234/