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Back pain

Back problems affect most people at some point in their lives and come in many forms. Lower back pain is second only to the common cold as a cause of lost days at work. It can be debilitating affecting the sufferer’s life. Common back pain causes include nerve and muscular problems, degenerative disc disease, and arthritis.

The spine is made up of 24 separate bones called vertebrae, plus the bones of the sacrum and coccyx. Between the vertebrae are discs that act as shock absorbers and allow your spine to bend. Your spinal cord threads down through the central canal of each vertebra, carrying nerves from your brain to the rest of your body. Sometimes these nerves get irritated when the disc presses on the nerve. Nerve pain can radiate into the legs in conditions such as sciatica.

Sciatica is the name given to any sort of pain that is caused by irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the body. It runs from the back of your pelvis, through your buttocks, and all the way down both legs, ending at your feet. When something compresses or irritates the sciatic nerve, it can cause a pain that radiates out from your lower back and travels down your leg to your calf. Sciatic pain can range from being mild to very painful. Nerve pain can also radiate down the arm causing pain and discomfort.

Other forms of back pain such as stiffness and muscle spasm; which is the body’s protective response and is reflex in nature, can originate from poor posture, weakness or imbalance in musculature or injuries from lifting and bending. All of these conditions can be relieved with physiotherapy treatment, advice on management and massage therapy.

Good back care can greatly reduce your risk of getting low back pain. To look after your back, make sure you take regular exercise, walking and swimming are particularly beneficial. Try to keep your stress levels to a minimum. Bend from your knees and hips, not your back and maintain good posture; keep your shoulders back and don't slouch.