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back pain symptoms

Back & Lower Back Pain Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention


The information published here is not intended to take the place of medical advice. Before starting any treatment program you should seek professional advice from a qualified medical practitioner.


The back is an intricate structure of bones, muscles, and other tissues that form the posterior part of the body’s trunk, from the neck to the pelvis. The centrepiece is the spinal column, which helps support the upper body’s weight and also houses and protects the spinal cord; the delicate nervous system structure that carries signals that control the body’s movements and convey its sensations.

Relieve back pain with a Remedial Massage from Thai Massage Therapies Melbourne

Stacked on top of one another are more than 30 bones (the vertebrae) that form the spinal column, also known as the spine. Each of these bones contains a roundish hole that, when stacked in register with all the others, creates a channel that surrounds the spinal cord. The spinal cord descends from the base of the brain and extends in the adult to just below the rib cage. Small nerves (roots) enter and emerge from the spinal cord through spaces between the vertebrae. Because the bones of the spinal column continue growing long after the spinal cord reaches its full length in early childhood, the nerve roots to the lower back and legs extend many inches down the spinal column before exiting. The spaces between the vertebrae are maintained by round, spongy pads of cartilage called intervertebral discs that allow for flexibility in the lower back and act much like shock absorbers throughout the spinal column to cushion the bones as the body moves. Bands of tissue known as ligaments and tendons hold the vertebrae in place and attach the muscles to the spinal column. It is the muscles of the back that actually support the weight of your upper body rather than the spine itself which is merely the part of your skeleton that the supporting back muscles attach to.

Dr. Alon Winnie, a professor of Anaesthesiology in the USA has been involved in the study and treatment of back pain for over thirty years. When he was asked what he thought was the most common cause of chronic back pain he said, "Most frequently it is muscular". That's why it is so dangerous if a person is given the wrong diagnosis. If they have back pain that is due to a muscular problem and suddenly someone is recommending spinal manipulation or suggesting surgery, that’s not going to restore normalcy or take away their pain. You have to know the correct cause of the problem in order to treat it properly and since most back pain is muscular, back pain due to muscular causes can clearly be prevented by maintaining the balance between opposing muscle groups in order to keep the body erect and functioning normally. You might think that your problem is just a simple muscle strain, but maybe you have an imbalance and that is what caused the strain in the first place and it’s also the reason why it won't heal.

Acute or short-term low back pain is a common problem that affects most people at some stage in their lifetime with symptoms generally lasting from a few days to a few weeks. The back is prone to a range of problems including postural stress, muscle strains, ligament sprains, disc problems, sciatica, arthritis, structural defects, disease and fracture. How you use or abuse your back in the home, the garden or at work can determine whether you will have to learn to live with back pain. Adopting some simple everyday measures such as keeping active and paying attention to the way you stand, sit and lift can help you prevent back pain. Most acute back pain is muscular in nature and can be the result of a trauma to the lower back or a disorder such as arthritis. Pain from trauma may be caused by a sports injury, work around the house or in the garden, or a sudden jolt such as a car accident or other stress on spinal bones and tissues. Symptoms may range from muscle ache to shooting or stabbing pain, limited flexibility and/or range of motion, or an inability to stand straight. Occasionally, pain felt in one part of the body may “radiate” from a disorder or injury elsewhere in the body. Some acute pain syndromes can become more serious if left untreated.

Chronic back pain is measured by duration — pain that persists for more than 3 months is considered chronic. It is often progressive and the cause can be difficult to determine.

Symptoms include back or neck spasm, stiffness, and pain. This pain results from the stretching or tearing of the soft tissue of the back or neck (ie. the muscles and ligaments). Low back sprains or strains can be caused by a single event, such as lifting a heavy object, or can be due to repeated small injuries to the back. Adults with poor posture, individuals who are overweight or obese, workers who repeatedly lift heavy objects, pregnant women, people who smoke, and older adults are at high risk for sprains and strains of the back. Typically, the symptoms of a strain or sprain begin either immediately or develop within the first 24 hours after the injury. The ongoing pain is caused by inflammation of the soft tissues, which causes the release of pain-causing chemicals and tissue swelling. Muscle spasms are caused by muscles tightening in response to the injury to project the injured area. These symptoms can sometimes last for weeks.

Heat packs assist in treating strains, sprains and relieving muscle pain

Although not scientifically proven, ice and heat (the use of cold and hot compresses) may help reduce pain and inflammation and allow greater mobility for some individuals. As soon as possible following a trauma, patients should apply a cold pack or cold compress ( chilled Heat Wheat pack or frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel ) to the tender spot several times a day for up to 20 minutes. After 2 to 3 days of cold treatment, they should then apply heat (such as a heating lamp or Heat Wheat pack ) for brief periods to relax muscles and increase blood flow. Warm baths may also help relax muscles. After this, you may slowly begin normal activities and exercise.

It is important to start moving again soon, as resting your back for more than three days has been shown to cause more harm and should be avoided. You may also benefit from Remedial Massage treatments and an exercise program designed for strengthening the back and abdominal muscles. A routine of back-healthy activities may include stretching exercises, swimming, walking, and movement therapy such as yoga or Thai Yoga Massage to improve coordination and develop proper posture and muscle balance. But if the pain is more than mild and lasts for more than 15 minutes during exercise, patients should stop exercising and contact a doctor.

Remedial Massage Therapy combined with an exercise program to strengthen the weaker muscles will in most cases bring long lasting pain relief. Thai Yoga massage is an excellent way of gently stretching muscles and easing pain. Any mild discomfort felt at the start of these exercises should disappear as the muscles become stronger.

Fortunately, back injuries are usually not as serious as people initially believe and on most occasions, will recover with a little medical assistance and or massage in a matter of weeks. However, this does not mean that you should not visit a doctor or hospital should you injure your back because there is always a slight possibility of a more serious and long lasting problem.

Spinal manipulation such as done by professionally licensed specialists like Osteopaths and Chiropractors use leverage and a series of manoeuvres to adjust the spinal structures and restore mobility to the spine. Once the spine is again in alignment, Remedial Massage Therapy can loosen tight muscles thus preventing the spine from being pulled back out of alignment.

Most people with back pain do not have any significant damage to their spine. The pain comes from the muscles, ligaments and joints. Some common causes of back pain include:

  • Muscle and ligament strains & sprains – weak muscles and ligaments are unprepared for sudden or heavy loads and are easily injured. Lifting a heavy load the wrong way, an unusual bout of exercise or even bad posture over a period of time can hurt soft tissue and cause muscle pain.
  • Arthritis – osteoarthritis and ankylosing spondylitis are two forms of arthritis linked to back pain.
  • Osteoporosis – fracture of the vertebrae due to osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a disease characterised by thinning of the bones. The vertebrae can become so porous and brittle that they break easily. Pain is due to the fracture.
  • Sciatica – Sciatica is nerve pain arising from the sciatic nerve that runs from the spine into the buttock and down the back of the leg. The cause is usually a disc bulge or prolapse pressing on the spinal (intervertebral) nerve. Other causes include narrowing of the nerve tunnel between discs due to osteoarthritis.
  • Stress – one of the side effects of stress is increased muscle tension. This can lead to fatigue, stiffness and localised pain. Constantly tight muscles can create imbalances in a person’s posture that may cause misalignment of the spine.

In most cases, back pain can be prevented by making a few lifestyle changes. Some suggestions include:

  • Exercise regularly – this is important to improve posture and increase muscle support of the spine. Try walking instead of using the car. Work towards doing 30 minutes of gentle exercise each day. This can be broken into shorter periods for equal benefit.
  • Lift and carry safely – if you are picking up heavy loads: squat down, hold the object as close to your body as practical and lift by using your legs, keeping your back straight. Get some help from another person or use equipment (such as a trolley) if the load is too heavy to manage comfortably on your own.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight – being overweight or obese puts extra strain on your back.
  • Be aware of your posture – consider your posture, particularly in seated positions such as when driving or sitting at a desk for long periods of time. Don’t slump, keep your back upright and use support where necessary (such as a lumbar support cushion or footstool).
  • Take regular breaks – when driving, standing or sitting for long periods of time, take a break at least every hour. This will help change the position of your joints and loosen your muscles. Include a short walk and a few stretches as part of your break.
  • Relax and manage your pain – learn some relaxation techniques to reduce stress levels and related muscle tension. Try massage, heat or cold packs and gentle exercise. Seek advice from a physiotherapist.
  • Change your mattress – surfaces that are too soft or too hard can aggravate a sore back. Avoid sleeping on your stomach.

Why put up with back pain any longer? Thai Massage Therapies can really help

Call Thai Massage Therapies Melbourne today on (03) 9300 2222 or 0437 245 596 to make an appointment, or simply complete and submit our Enquiry Form. Surapa is a member of the Australian Traditional Medicine Society & is registered for both the Traditional Thai Massage & Remedial Massage Modalities.

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