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Lower back pain affects 80% adults

Hani M. Bathish
Filed on August 8, 2003

DUBAI - Four out of five adults will experience significant lower back pain sometime during their life. After the common cold, problems caused by the lower back are the leading cause of absenteeism in adults under the age of 45, according to Dr Sameer Yackout, Neurosurgeon at Belhoul Apollo Hospital.

The Department of Neurosurgery at the hospital is holding a Lower Back Pain Assessment Campaign, which started on August 2 and ended yesterday.

Patients are offered free consultation with Dr Yackout and free registration. Lower back pain is one of the most frequent problems treated at the hospital. The lower or lumbar spine is a complex structure that connects the upper body, the chest and arms, to the lower body, the pelvis and the legs.

This important part of the spine provides both mobility and strength. It allows movement such as turning, twisting or bending, and its strength allows us to stand, walk and lift objects. Proper functioning of the lower back is necessary for almost all activities of daily life. Pain in the lower back can restrict activity and reduce work capacity as well as quality of life. Lower back pain can be caused by a number of factors, starting from injuries and trauma to the effects of aging.

Among the causes are: prolapsed discs and spondyloleitheses, tumours of the vertebrae and the spinal cord, spine infections like tuberculosis and brucellosis, arthritic changes in the small joints, osteoporosis and fractures, congenital anomalies of the spine, cervical ulcers in women, and prostatitis in men.

Most lower back pain, whether acute or chronic, almost always can be treated without surgery. The most common reason for surgery on the lower back is to remove the pressure from a 'slipped disk' when it causes nerve and leg pain, and has not responded to other treatments. Some arthritic conditions of the spine, when severe, can also cause pressure and nerve irritation, and often can be improved with surgical treatment.

A strain of the muscle can occur when the muscle is poorly conditioned or overworked. The ligaments of the lower back act to interconnect the five vertebral bones and provide support and stability for the lower back. A sprain of the lower back can occur when a sudden, forceful movement injures a ligament which has become stiff or weak through poor conditioning or overuse. These injuries, or sprain and strain, are the most common causes of lower back pain. Frequently, a combination of other factors may increase the likelihood of injury or disease, such as: poor conditioning, improper use, obesity and smoking.

Age, wear and tear, and inherited factors will cause degenerative changes in the disks, called degenerative disk disease, and arthritic changes in the small joints. These changes occur to some degree in everyone. When severe, they can cause lower back stiffness and pain. Arthritic bone spurs and inflamed joints can cause nerve irritation and leg pain.

All bones lose strength over time, and the lumbar vertebrae, particularly in post-menopausal women, can be fractured or compressed from a fall or even from the stress of lifting, or everyday activities.

Solutions to the problem

The normal effects of aging that result in decreased bone mass and decreased strength and elasticity of muscles and ligaments, can't be avoided. However, the effects can be slowed down by:

Exercising regularly to keep the muscles that support the back strong and flexible

Using the correct lifting and moving techniques: get help if an object is too heavy.

Maintain proper body weight: being overweight puts a strain on the back muscles

Avoid smoking

Maintain a proper posture when standing and seated: don't slouch





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