Author: Dr. Savitha Suri
Back pain is the most common complaint among adults under 45. Back pain brings their activities to a complete halt and intervenes in the progress of their career. Researchers say that it is really a challenge to a physician to find out the true cause of back pain.
Here is a quick take on the anatomy of the human back. Our body depends on the spinal column for structural stability and mobility. We twist, bend and flex with the help of spinal column. The spinal column is made up of 24 vertebrae, 7 in the neck (the cervical vertebrae), 12 in the thorax (the thoracic vertebrae), and 5 in the lower back (the lumbar vertebrae). The sacrum, located just below the lumbar vertebrae, consists of 5 fused vertebrae. The tailbone, or coccyx, with its 3 to 5 fused vertebrae, lies just beneath the sacrum. These vertebrae are placed one on another from skull to pelvis. Spongy discs are present in between vertebrae .The spinal column is tightly wrapped by muscles and ligaments.
The spinal cord is enclosed within vertebral canal which is formed by alignment of vertebrae.
Acharya sushruta describes anatomy of spinal column as follows.
Prushte trimshat -
The number of back bones are 30 (Cervical-7 , Thoracic – 12, Lumbar- 5, vertebrae fused in sacrum -5 , coccyx -1 ). While describing the joints in spinal column it has been said as “Chaturvimshatihi prishta vamshe“. This means there are 24 joints in spinal column.
The ligaments and tendons hold the bones and muscles together.
Causes for back ache
Bones and thighs are mainly occupied by Vata . Vata controls and directs the body movements. Back pain occurs when vata in this region gets aggravated due to unwise physical activities (mithya yoga of karma), exaggerated physical activities (Ati yoga of karma ) or less physical activities (hina yoga of karma).
Back ache usually arises from spasm of muscles that support our spine. The muscles supporting spine go into spasm when we lift things unwisely, bending over too sharply, sitting in a unsuitable chair, etc. These type of movements are called as “Mithyaa yoga of karma or action ” in Ayurveda.
Back pain can be triggered when we sneeze, climb into a car, or bend down to pick up the newspaper.
Osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, viral infection, bladder or kidney infection, gynecological problems in women, tumors and trauma may also cause back pain.
Lack of motion or hina yoga of karma and bad posture may affect us when we sit or stand for long periods of time. On the other hand repetitive motion or Ati yoga of karma like too much of bending, lifting or twisting also affects our back.
Other potential causes for back ache are:
Wearing high heeled shoes
Carrying heavy weight
The vitiated vata causes stiffness of joints, pain and limits the movements of back.
Solutions for back pain
1. Stay calm.
2. A complete bed rest for 24 - 48 hrs relieves back pain in most of the instances. Walk a little every few hours to keep the blood flowing and the muscles toned.
3. Applying vata balancing oil like ksheerabala oil on affected region and Naadi sweda (mild steam bath on affected area ) of affected region relives the pain quickly.
See your doctor immediately if you have any of the following symptoms:
1. If you are above 50 and sudden onset of severe pain or pain localized to spine
2. Pain due to recent fall or trauma.
3. Pain in hip and leg.
4. Back pain unrelated to posture.
5. Bowel or bladder control problems.
6. Numbness in the groin or rectal area.
7. Extreme weakness in legs.
8. Unsteadiness while walking
9. Fever or weight loss accompanying the pain.
10. Pain that does not lessen over time even after rest
Prevention of back pain
1. Keep the muscles well conditioned by improving sitting, standing, stretching postures. Well-conditioned muscles are less susceptible to injury.
2. Never bend at the waist or stoop to pick up an object. Instead, lower the body to the level of the object by bending the knees. Grasp the item, hold it close to the body, and raise yourself with your legs while keeping your back straight.
3. Do not lift very heavy objects.
4. Whenever possible, prop yourself up.
5. Lean against a wall or pillar while waiting for a bus or standing in line at the bank.
6. Keep footstools around the house. Alternatively prop up one leg on stool while doing standing chores.
7. Sleep on a firm mattress and find a comfortable position.
8. Wear low-heeled shoes.
9. Standing straight will do wonders for your back.
10. Sit on a comfortable chair that supports the curve of lower back.
11. While sitting for long hours rest feet on a low stool so that knees are above hips.
12. Do not sit or stand in one position for a very long time. Get up periodically and walk for a while.
13. Avoid activities which hurt back.
14. Do not sit in same position for long hours. It may prove hazardous to back. Take break in between and move around.
15. Avoid becoming overweight. Overweight increases the risk of back pain.
Tips for software professionals to avoid back pain
1. Select a correct chair, with a relatively straight back and good lower back support. If the chair doesn't offer lower back support, keep a rolled up towel or cushion to support the back.
2. Correctly position the chair, keyboard, and monitor. Feet should be on the floor, with knees at hip level; forearms should form a right angle with upper arms; and the computer terminal should be at eye level.
3. Adopt a relaxed, upright working posture and allow the chair to support.
4. Avoid slouching forward or leaning back too far.
5. When you are at work stand up, walk around, stretch forward, backward, and side to side once in 30 minutes.
6. Increased stress and strain enhances the chances of back pain. Hence remember to relax! Yoga and meditation are best techniques to relax
7. Eat healthy food which is rich in fiber. Avoid sweets, oil, soft drinks and overeating to reduce the chances of weight gain.
8. Sex should be avoided during acute stage of back pain as it exaggerates the condition.
Ayurvedic Home remedy for backache
Nirgundi leaves (Hindi - samhaalu) (Botany- Vitex negundo) (English - Five leaved chaste) and Karanja leaves ( Hindi - Ditauri) (Botany - Pongamia pinnata) (English - Indian beech).
Collect fresh leaves of Nirgundi and Karanja. Tie them in a thin cotton cloth to form a big ball . Boil this leaves' ball in water and when it is tolerably hot apply this on affected part. When the leaves become cold reheat them by putting the leaves' ball in boiling water. After half an hour take out the leaves from ball , grind them to a paste and bind it on affected area.