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By Dr Gerd Mueller (MD), Co-Founder & MD, AktivOrtho

Back, neck strains and sprains are amongst the most common pain-producing problems experienced. They are also the most common reasons for doctor visits and are major causes of disability, lost work days and high healthcare costs.

If you’ve ever groaned–“Oh, my aching back!”, you are not alone. Back pain is one of the most common medical problems, affecting 8 out of 10 people at some point in their lifetime. Back pain has many faces. It can be a short severe episode or a long on-going chronic or recurrent pain. It can severely interfere with your work and daily activities. Back pain can also make your muscles weak and may even affect your thoughts and emotions.


There are many potential causes of back pain with subsequent complications possibly even increasing the pain.”Lumbago” is defined as an acute pain in the lower lumbar spine area, often occurring very suddenly and severely restricting movement for a few days.
“Sciatica” or “sciatic nerve pain” is a pain radiating down the leg due to a nerve irritation, often caused by a herniated disc (a disc prolapse), a disc protrusion or other mechanical issue in the spinal canal or the nerve root canal (e.g. a synovial cyst from the facet joint or a spinal stenosis).

Many episodes of back pain actually go away by themselves and in most cases they are harmless. You should see a doctor, if one or more of the following issues occur: back pain at night, inexplicable weight loss, cancer in the history or strong infection in the recent months, severe pain when sitting or inability to do even easy exercises. These are cases, when some serious diseases have to be ruled out.

You should also seek help, when the pain doesn’t get better after a few weeks, recurrent pain episodes occur or the pain interferes with your daily activities. Then, after having ruled out serious diseases by a doctor, it is very likely that your back is not “in good shape” for one reason or the other. In this case, a thorough and professional functional assessment by a sports medicine doctor or a senior therapist with good functional and manual skills will help detect the problem and then create a proper training plan to help you out of the problem. If pain is strong, this should be accompanied by a good pain management scheme, if required.

Mental stress, emotional disturbances e.g. a depression or anxiety disorder, or a sedentary lifestyle are modulators or contributors to back pain.

Back pain is now catching the young & anyone:

Interestingly, more and more young people experience back or neck pain. Today, 4 out of 10 persons having back pain are students or young professionals. Both men and women are prone to back pain.  It is likely that the sedentary lifestyle with underuse of the body and the often high mental stress contributes to prolonged periods of pain. Getting the body back in shape and also finding one’s own balance better can significantly reduce or take away the back or neck problems.
Children, reporting about prolonged periods of back pain, should definitely be checked by a doctor to rule out any serious disease and to find the right measures against the pain problem.

Indians are more prone to backache as while they love foods they also dislike exercise. Excess weight coupled with sedentary lifestyle and low intake of Vitamin D put them at greater risk of getting back pain. This is more common amongst Indian women as they are less active physically than men and their milk intake is also comparatively very low. Osteoporosis is a possible cause for back pain; this is mostly rather in the mid back (thoracic spine) than the lower back. But we know that the physical side of osteoporosis treatment requires an adequate strengthening, which in turn is only possible, if the whole back is fit enough.

Back pain facts:

  • According to Global Burden of Disease 2010, low back pain is the single leading cause of disability globally.
  • According to medical experts, around 80 per cent of the population will get back pain at some point of their time.


As surgery can often help cases in severe sciatica, it is,in the vast majority of cases, not the answer to lower back pain. This can be effectively treated with physiotherapy and following right guidelines.
The most effective solution for most back problems is a combination of both active and passive treatment. Passive treatment is everything that is done to you including physiotherapy, medication, injections. This can help relieve the pain short term but it often does not help you long term because your own healing potential remains unused.
This is where the active part comes in. Active treatment means you, together with the physio- or sports therapist, train one-on-one to build-up your physical strength and restore you to your physical equilibrium longterm. Formerly, it was believed that one should have prolonged rest when suffering back pain. It is now known that a well-tailored, active treatment program with a gradual increase of intensity is the best measure to relieve and resolve pain long term.

Exercise is vital The importance of exercise and outdoor sports should be inculcated amongst the children, so that they can carry the habit throughout their life. Exercise is crucial to keep your bone healthy and avoid back pain. An active body:

  • prevents aches and pains from joints and back.
  • strengthens your immune system.
  • keeps your metabolism in balance.
  • helps lose weight.
  • speeds up recovery after a disease.
  • protects your heart and improves blood circulation.

Vitamin D- ”The sunshine vitamin”

Researchers recommend that 15-30 minutes of sun exposure at least twice a week to the face, arms, legs or back without sunscreen usually leads to sufficient Vitamin D synthesis. (National institute of Health, USA)

Quit smoking

Cigarette smoking was first identified as a risk factor for osteoporosis more than 20 years ago. Recent studies have shown a direct relationship between tobacco use and decreased bone density. So, quit smoking now.


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