Pain in the shoulder, stabbing in the rump: back pain can turn any movement into torture. They are often harmless – and can be driven away with exercise. Sometimes, however, a doctor has to help.
Almost every adult has shoulder and lower back pain at times. Whether lumbago, herniated disc, sciatica, or just a rude awakening with a stiff neck: The region between the neck and tailbone is one of our major physical weaknesses. Most of the time, the afflicted are between 35 and 55 years old, and the lower back is the most common cause of distress. No wonder, as the base of our hull it bears the greatest burden.
Many sufferers react in panic to sudden tearing or dull pain in the back, possibly even suspecting serious illnesses behind the torment. Fortunately, this fear is almost always unfounded. Simple back pain is just as much a part of life as one or the other cold. Statistics show that tumors, herniated discs, inflammation, or other serious illnesses are only responsible for a fraction of all back problems. No clear cause can be found for 85 percent of all those afflicted.
The muscles protest
It is often the age that makes itself felt in the back. The spine wears out over time, and this wear and tear cause pain. Because over the years, the intervertebral discs, our body’s own shock absorbers and spacers between the individual vertebrae, become friable, cracked and narrow. If the back is overloaded, a rotten intervertebral disc tends to slip into the spinal canal; experts call this protrusion intervertebral disc protrusion. Under certain circumstances, parts of it even slide completely into the spinal canal, which is then a herniated disc.
It can hurt, but it doesn’t have to be. Worn discs, vertebrae, joints, and ligaments, like wrinkles and gray hair, are natural side effects of aging. In the past, these niggles were either accepted – or, due to the lack of complaints, not even noticed. Today, expensive imaging processes such as magnetic resonance or computer tomography can make wear processes visible, such as a slipped intervertebral disc or altered vertebral bones. Which leaves those affected who have been completely painless up to then quite astonished and perplexed.
For some people the wear and tear start earlier, for others later. Heavy physical work, one-sided stress, an unhealthy lifestyle, sitting too long at work or too little exercise accelerate the process. Then your back may already hurt at a younger age. Basically, these pains are nothing more than the protest of our muscles, because whoever moves little neglects this body’s own support corset. Above all, the abdominal and back muscles play an important role here. You can relieve your back. However, if they are too untrained, it overwhelms their possibilities, they tense up and harden.
The pain can become chronic
In most cases, the ghost is over pretty quickly. About 80 percent of all people with back pain get rid of their symptoms after two months. But in up to 78 percent the pain comes back. For two to seven percent, the pain becomes an annoying permanent guest, they have chronic back pain.
If the tearing affects larger and larger parts of the back or keeps coming back, the so-called pain memory can be to blame. Because our nerve cells are capable of learning: if they constantly receive pain signals, over time they become extremely sensitive to such impulses. In the end, they even react to gentle pressure with strong pain sensations. In the worst case, they torment those affected without cause, because the nerves have memorized the original information.
If the pain remains, the soul usually also plays a role. Mental stress such as stress, grief, or fears can permanently cramp the muscles. People who want to stick it out are particularly at risk: They tend to clench their teeth rather than take back something.
Different specialists work against the pain
Many afflicted people also automatically adopt a relieving posture, that is, they try to keep the affected area of the body still so as not to put any more strain on it. You are not doing yourself any good with this tactic, on the contrary: A relieving posture is nothing more than a wrong posture, and in the long run, it overwhelms other parts of the back.
So what to do if it hurts? And where to look for advice? For a long time, back problems were the sole responsibility of the orthopedic surgeon. In the meantime, doctors from various disciplines, physiotherapists, sports medicine specialists, and psychologists work together to get the problem under control.
The therapeutic approaches have also changed. While bed rest was usually prescribed in the past, it is now considered completely obsolete to layout back pain. Instead, experts rely on exercise, sport, and normal everyday activity. This loosens the tense muscles and stimulates blood circulation. The intervertebral discs also stay flexible longer. Medication, massage, and relaxation exercises can also help.
Only around four percent of all people with back pain are ready for hospitalization, and very few of them really have to go under the knife. Surgery is only necessary if nerves are threatened with death or if tumors, broken vertebrae or infections are the cause of the pain. In most cases, however, relaxation and a little exercise work best.