Backaches are a common symptom of many different conditions and injuries. Most of the time, one that is not chronic is not cause for concern. The spine is responsible for bearing most of the body’s weight, and the muscles and ligaments can get fatigued from time to time, causing pain. In some cases, however, a backache may be a sign of an underlying medical condition that may require treatment.
Backache symptoms are often the result of poor posture when standing, sitting, or lifting. Slouching or slumping forward puts strain on the spine and the discs between the vertebrae, which can lead to back pain that may range from the lower back to the shoulders and neck. Bending over and lifting with the back can injure and weaken the lower back. Lifting with the legs reduces stress on the lower back.
Remaining in the same position for extended periods of time can also create backache symptoms. Moving around for a few minutes every hour or two, when working or driving long distances can help loosen the muscles and prevent or relieve back pain. Stretches, such as leaning backward at the waist while standing, stretching the arms above the head, and gently rolling the neck from side to side can help relieve muscles that are tense from remaining in fixed positions for prolonged periods.
Pregnant women often experience a dull backache that persists through their entire pregnancy. Bones weakened by osteoporosis can also be responsible for backache symptoms, especially in older people. Muscle strain and abdominal weakness are the most common causes of back pain in children, though other conditions, such as stress fractures and scoliosis — a condition that causes an unnatural curvature in the spine — may be responsible.
Nerves in and around the spine can lead to backache symptoms, particularly if one of the spinal discs slips out of place, or herniates. Sharp low back pain that shoots from the lower back to the buttock, hip, leg, or foot is often a sign of sciatica. The sciatic nerve that runs from the lower back to the bottom of the leg can be irritated by a herniated or bulging disc, or muscle spasms in the lower back. Many people experience recurring sciatica pain, though the condition is usually managed well with stretching and mild pain relievers, like acetaminophen and ibuprofen.
Backache symptoms accompanied by weakness or numbness in the arms and legs, or loss of bladder or bowel control, can be a sign of a serious spinal condition or injury. People who experience these symptoms with back pain should see a doctor as soon as possible to rule out potentially serious conditions. Back pain around the pelvic area may be a sign of a kidney, bladder, or ovarian condition, and should be evaluated by a medical professional.
Gentle stretching and exercise can help alleviate many common backache symptoms. Individuals with back pain should always discuss an exercise program with their healthcare provider before beginning a routine. Physical therapy is often necessary for people with spinal conditions or injuries, to help strengthen the back and prevent future pain.