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Back pain is a common symptom that affects 60–80 per cent of people at some time in their lives. Although the prevalence has not increased, reported disability from back pain has risen significantly in the last 30 years. In Western countries, back pain is the most common cause of sickness-related work absence.
More than 90 per cent of episodes of low back pain are of mechanical origin and most resolve spontaneously within 1-2 weeks. About 30 per cent of patients’ episodes can last as long as a month but chronic low back pain of more than 3 months duration accounts for less than 3 per cent of all cases.
Mechanical low back pain is particularly associated with occupations that involve heavy lifting, bending or twisting such as manual labouring or nursing but people whose jobs involve awkward static posture or prolonged driving are also at increased risk.
In the Ayurvedic system, it is observed that various lifestyle factors aggravate Vata. The flow of this vitiated Vata gets obstructed in the Kati (lower back) regions or anywhere along the entire length of the spine. Obstructed or blocked Vata increases over time in a localised area and leads to inflammation and pain. If not treated in time, this situation causes further damage to soft tissue structures of the affected area. These degenerative changes accelerate and cause increased pain.
Some of the factors that contribute to back pain are unwholesome diet (excessive Vata- aggravating food) and lifestyle, improper sleep, lack of appropriate exercise, trauma, urahkshat (chest infection such as tuberculosis), uneven beds, exposure to cold, lifting or pushing heavy objects, constipation, irregular menstrual cycle, chronic illness, leucorrhoea, diabetes, long-duration standing or sitting, sudden excessive walking, mountain climbing, travelling on jerky roads etc,
CONDITIONS THAT COULD CAUSE BACK PAIN
1) Sitting in one position for long, perhaps in an improper posture, often leads to lower back pain
2) Working on a computer for long hours in one position usually leads to pain in the upper back tending towards the shoulder. In severe cases, pain shoots from upper back to fingertips.
3) Lifting heavy articles when the body is unconditioned, can lead to a sudden jerk or strain in the lower and middle back
4) Over-indulging in any physical activity for prolonged hours, when the body is unused to it or is untrained; or overdoing any sport especially after a gap, also has the same results.
All these symptoms on account of strained and stressed back, can be rectified with the right exercise, right posture, a little medication and physiotherapy, in a matter of days or weeks.
BACK PAIN CAUSED BY STRUCTURAL CONDITIONS
Some are born with genetic structural problems. Also, with advancing age pain appears in the back, whenever the mind and body are exposed to stress.
Interlocked bones known as Vertebrae, give form and shape to our spinal structure. Disks are the soft tissues that provide a cushion to the space between each vertebra. In some cases, these Disks herniate, rupture or bulge leading to compression of the nerves. This leads to the state of sciatica or suppression of the sciatic nerve. The symptoms experienced on account of sciatica are 1) pain 2) numbness 3) shooting pain travelling through the back to the toes 4) Continuous tingling sensation
C. DEGENERATIVE ARTHRITIS
Damage, degeneration and deterioration of joint cartilage in the lower back leads to Spinal osteoarthritis which also causes back pain. Progressively this condition leads to spinal stenosis or narrowing of the spinal column.
Osteoporosis is when one’s bones become brittle and fragile from loss of tissue, generally as a result of hormonal changes, or calcium or vitamin D deficiency. Osteoporosis can sometimes lead to small vertebrae fractures, labeled as compression fractures, which can cause serious pain.
OTHER CAUSES OF BACK PAIN
Back pain can be caused by so many other conditions – some of them quite rare.
Consult your doctor if you experience regular, lingering back pain. Your doctor would probably conduct diagnostic tests to ascertain the cause of your pain. These could include: kidney stones or kidney infection | cancer or benign tumor in the spine | degenerative spondylolisthesis or displacement of one vertebral body onto another | loss of nerve function in the lower spinal cord (a medical emergency) | fungal or bacterial infection of the spine, such as staphylococcus, e. coli or tuberculosis
BACK PAIN CLASSIFICATION
Mechanical (soft-tissue lesion) back pain: Prolapsed intervertebral disc, Lumbar spondylosis, Spondylosis/Spondylolisthesis, Spinal stenosis & Congenital abnormalities.
Inflammatory back pain: Infections, Sacroiliitis, Ankylosing spondylitis, Arachnoiditis.
Metabolic back pain: Osteoporosis, Osteomalacia, Hyperparathyroidism, Renal Osteodystrophy, Paget’s disease.
Neoplastic back pain: Metastases, Myeloma, Reticuloses, Osteoid osteoma, Intrathecal tumours.
Referred pain: Peptic ulcer, Pancreas, Bowel, Kidney, Ovary, Herpes zoster, Hip disease,
MANAGING BACK PAIN NATURALLY
Yoga and pranayam under the guidance of a good teacher, benefit all the above conditions. Initially, start with light yogic exercises. Practice correct sitting, standing or sleeping postures.
If you are in a job that involves standing, sitting or bending for long periods of time, try not to stay in one position for more than 30 minutes. Walk, stretch and do breathing exercise as prescribed by the yoga teacher or physiotherapist. Also, avoid lifting heavy weights and bending exercises.
Yoga asanas that help strengthen the back are :
1. Tadasana 2. Bhujangasana 3. Makarasana 4. Shalabhasana 5. Markatasana 6. Vajrasana
1. Foods considered beneficial in a back pain situation are Kali Masoor & Moth ki Daal, Karela, Parmal, Methi, Sejna Ki Phali, Ginger, Garlic & Bathua. If you follow Vaishnav food principles, then Hing is an excellent food additive.
2. Foods to avoid are Curd, Rice, Urad, Moong, Rajma, Channa Daal, Cabbage, Arabi, Eggplant (Brinjal), Leafy Vegetables, White Flour and sour food items. If you do not have a choice to eat the right foods, add Ginger or Garlic generously to your food.
Completely avoid Cold-drinks, Beer, Juices, Packaged Food and Refrigerated Food.
3. Soak a teaspoonful of Methi Seeds (fenugreek) overnight. Filter out the water and chew all the seeds on the empty stomach.
4. Make a fine paste of 10-15 almonds soaked in water overnight and eat it at breakfast.
AYURVEDIC PAIN RELIEF OIL PREPARED WITH NATURAL HERBS
Oils infused with Turpentine oil, Methyl Salicate (Winter Green Oil or Gandapoora Oil) and Menthol may give you instant relief, however, Ayurvedic Pain Relief Oil made with natural herbs are more effective in the long run.
Ayurveda Pain Relief Oils are fairly effective in curing mild back pains, however, if the pain persists beyond 3 to 4 days, one should consult either an Ayurvedic Physician or a doctor of modern medicine – whatever resonates best with you.
Sanjeev Sarna is a guest contributor. Views expressed are personal.