Back pain will inhibit millions of Americans this year, and an estimated 80% of us will experience back pain sometime in our lives. For some, the pain can be excruciating. Back pain can be caused by a large number of injuries or conditions, thus making a proper diagnosis both difficult and critical. Back pain that occurs with other symptoms like fever and chills, severe abdominal pain or bladder and bowel problems can be an indication of a serious medical condition, and should be evaluated by your doctor immediately.Musculoskeletal strains are more common among people who live sedentary lifestyles. Those with a higher level of physical fitness generally have stronger muscles in the back, legs and abdomen, all of which help support the back. Perhaps the most significant risk factor is obesity. The strain of carrying excess weight can contribute greatly to back pain. Regular exercise and a balanced diet can help control obesity, and reduce the frequency of back pain episodes.There are many conditions that can cause back pain other than musculoskeletal strains. They include: • Arthritis, a disease that causes inflammation of the joints. Three types of arthritis that affect the spine are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and ankolyzing spondylitis. • A herniated disc, or ruptured disc, occurs when the hard outer coating of the discs, the circular pieces of connective tissue that cushion the vertebrae, are damaged. These discs may leak, irritating nearby nerves. A herniated disk can cause severe sciatica, nerve pain that radiates down the leg. • Spinal stenosis is a condition where the spinal canal narrows, compressing the nerves inside. It is often caused by bone spurs which are a result of osteoarthritis. Compression of the nerves can lead to pain, numbness in the legs and the loss of bladder or bowel control. • Spondylolisthesis is a condition where a vertebra of the slips out of place. As the spine tries to stabilize itself, the joints between the slipped vertebra and adjacent vertebrae can become enlarged. This can pinch nerves, causing low back pain and severe sciatica leg pain. • Vertebral fractures can be caused by trauma or by osteoporosis, a disease where the bones become fragile. • Degenerative disc disease is an aging process where the discs between the vertebrae break down over time.
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