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Looking back at the facts

backpain-21-9-12The chances are you will experience back pain in your life; you don’t have to take it lying down

Who runs a greater risk of suffering with back pain? You do, if you’re aged 20-50; you’re overweight or obese; pregnant; a long-term user of medications such as corticosteroids, which are known to weaken bones; you’re stressed or depressed.
Health care costs for UK back pain are £1.6 billion per year. The NHS spends more than £1 billion per year on back-pain-related expenses. These include:

  • £512 million on patient hospital costs
  • £141 million on GP consultations
  • £150.6 million on prescribed physiotherapy treatments.

The private healthcare sector doesn’t escape a hefty bill, either, with hospitals and clinics forking out £565 million a year for treating their fee-paying back-pain patients.

Most Back pain lacks a definite cause, in fact, more than eight out of 10 back pain cases will have no clear medical culprit at all.

Positive  thinking can work wonders – people who have a positive outlook and say they enjoy a good quality of life tend to make a faster recovery from bouts of back pain than those who report symptoms of depression and are unhappy with one or more aspects of their lives.

your backbone has 33 vertebrae, and these are separated by spongy discs and classified into four areas. The cervical area consists of seven bony parts in the neck; the thoracic spine is made up of 12 bony parts in the back area; the lumbar spine consists of five bony segments in the lower back area; five sacral bones; and four coccygeal bones (these vary from three to five).

Taking it easy won’t always help– in the past, bed rest on a firm mattress was the standard treatment advice for a bad back, but that’s all changed now: crawling around on your hands and knees is better than no movement at all! Exercises that don’t put too much pressure on the back – such as walking and swimming – are advised, even during bouts of pain, as they get your joints moving, and your heart and lungs going.

Backache is usually classified by how long your symptoms last:

  • Acute back pain doesn’t last longer than six weeks
  • Chronic back pain lasts for more than six weeks
  • Most non-specific back pains ease and go quickly, usually within a week or so
  • In about seven out of 10 cases, the pain has either gone or has greatly eased within four weeks
  • In about nine out of 10 cases, the pain has gone or has greatly eased within six weeks.

Sciatica affects people between the ages of 25-50. This is a term used to describe any pain – mild or acute – that stems from the lower back and radiates down the back of the leg. It can be caused by irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve, although a slipped disc is the most common cause.

Glucosamine won’t help with a bad back, says new research published last year. The supplement – often used by people with arthritis or other joint problems – didn’t ease lower back pain in studies.

Image: Shutterstock

This article was first published in at home with Sally Gunnell in August 2012. [Read the digital edition here]

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