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Back Pain

Considering that the spine evolved to support weight hung from it while horizontal, it is perhaps slightly surprising that back problems in upright humans are not more common than they are! However with that said, various form of back pain are indeed common, and can stem from a variety of causes.

Most back pain is probably a consequence of our lifestyles, which tend to involve much sitting (a rather unnatural posture in evolutionary terms), little exercise and the heavier bodies we have developed as a result of these factors combined with an often poor diet.

Psychological stress and resultant excessive muscle tension may also contribute.  In rare cases, back pain can also be experienced from unrelated causes a such as kidney problems.

Back pain is most commonly experienced in the lower back (lumbago) and may involve the structure of the spine itself, or just the stabilising muscles. Occasional bouts of back pain are usually no more than localised muscle strain or spasm caused by bad lifting technique or other physical exertion involving the back, or poorly judged movement, for instance while getting into a car or bending down to pick something up. Even violent sneezing has been known to trigger this type of back pain.

Chronic back pain may be indicative of more serious problems such as slipped disk or spondylosis, where adjacent vertebrae tend to form bony outgrowths that restrict the freedom of movement of the back. If back pain is accompanied by any loss of sensation or control in the lower body, pain in the groin or leg weakness, a pinched nerve should be suspected and medical help should be sought immediately. A chiropracter might be able to perform some manipulations to relieve the pressure on the nerves affected.


Back problems are often notoriously difficult for doctors to find a cause for, and for ‘run of the mill’ back pain most will simply fall back on prescribing pain killers such as Ibuprofen.  If the pain is acute, a short course of painkillers will be helpful to allow relaxation, and most pain killers are also anti-inflammatory.  For most ‘sudden onset’ back pains, rest is essential, either on a bed or in a ‘recliner’ chair. If you continue to try to do physical work or sit upright for long periods with mild back strain, the pain is likely to worsen and the recovery period may increase. A slightly faddy ‘ergonomic’ kneeling stool or chair will often allow a comfortable seated position for back pain sufferers, and greatly improve sitting posture generally, making a recurrence less likely.

Soaking in a hot tub or local application of a heat source such as an electrical or chemical heat pad will usually bring relief by encouraging muscle relaxation and increased blood flow.

Yoga might also help relieve muscle tension and improve strength and flexibility.  Yoga classes are often available locally at nominal cost.

And finally you might look at a rather unusual technique known as emotional freedom technique (EFT), which is loosely based on Chinese medicine (you can carry this out alone). It is best to approach this with an open mind, as the philosophy and procedure seem pretty whacky - however thousands of people have reported astonishing results. The original EFT web site is run by Gary Craig, the inventor of the technique, at Most of the material at the site is free, other than instructional DVDs etc.



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