9 Major causes of backache

Now that's a dress! A girl student poses with an open back dress with a tattoo at the Manipal University Fashion Show UTSAV 2012 | Photo by Mahesh Mayuur

Unless their backs are giving trouble, people take it for granted that their backs are in good shape. Almost eight persons out of ten suffer from acute backache at least once in their lives. About 60 per cent of backache sufferers belong to the age group of 21-40 years. In other words, backache strikes persons when they are in the prime of their lives.

Backache is a major cause of absenteeism in the industry. The resultant loss of production makes industrialists lose their sleep.

Each day, thousands (perhaps lakhs) of persons remain absent from work and cannot fulfill social responsibilities because of backache. Thus back pain is a major social problem.

Let us know some major causes of backache:

  1. Osteoarthritis of the spine (Lumbar spondylosis):

In short degeneration or wear and tear process of the spine because of ageing. It is characterized by a narrowing of the intervertebral joint space due to thinning of the disc; formation of osteophytes at the margins of vertebral bodies and the swelling of the posterior facet joints.

As a general rule, osteoarthritis of the spine is not serious and usually asymptomatic. However, it may give rise to slight stiffness, mild intermittent pain or sometimes grating.

2. Slipped disc: Although there is in reality no such thing as a ‘slipped disc’, the term has become a part of modern usage. There is no way a disc can actually slip out of place. It merely bulges when there is too much pressure or a sudden shearing strain on the spine.

Therefore, many doctors prefer to use other synonyms of this word like herniated disc, prolapsed disc, ruptured disc, bulging disc, protruding disc and extruded disc.

Herniation of the disc is usually the result of some sudden violent episodes such as a fall, an accident, strain while lifting a heavy object, a twisting jerk of the trunk, etc.

3. Structural defeat of the spine: Surprisingly large number of people, about half the population according to one widely accepted estimate have minor congenital defects of the spine and its associated structures.

They include scoliosis, kyphosis, lordosis, spondylolisthesis and spina bifida. Only occasionally do these conditions cause discomfort or backache.

4. Arthritis of the spine: The joints of our spine, like any other joint of our body are liable to arthritis. From among the various types of arthritis, the relatively common is osteoarthritis and one can also be affected by rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a generalised disease of the body. It affects women more than men. Whereas ankylosing spondylitis is an ill-understood disease of the spine which affects men more often than women and causes pain and severe stiffness of the whole spine.

5. Metabolic disease like osteoporosis or gout may occasionally cause a backache.

6.  Infections of the spine include tuberculous arthritis, pyogenic arthritis, etc.

7. Visceral causes like peptic ulcer, pancreatitis, kidney stone, gull stone, kidney infections, cervicitis, may produce backaches.

8.Tumours of the spine which is a rare phenomenon.

9. Psychological causes: This sub-heading might come to you as a surprise. The fact remains, however, that psychological problems can sometimes cause and often aggravate backache.

You may not realize how intimately your body and mind are inter-related.

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