Understanding back pain – what causes back pain and contributing factors

Understanding back pain – what causes back pain and contributing factors

Understanding back pain

If you suffer from back pain, you know how important it is to find some relief. Prolonged back pain doesn’t just affect you physically; it can affect you emotionally as well, resulting in mood swings, feelings of anxiety, irritability, frustration, and even depression. The first step to feeling ‘normal’ again is understanding what’s causing your back pain.
Fortunately, for most people, back pain isn’t the result of a significant injury or disease. This means back pain can often be treated, even prevented in the future, by making some simple changes to your diet, exercise routine, posture, core strength and mattress.
In this article, we explain some of the contributing factors to back pain, to help you better understand and manage yours.

What causes back pain?

Most back pain is mechanical in nature, meaning there is a disruption in the way the back - the spine, muscles, intervertebral discs, and nerves - fit together and move.
Some examples of mechanical causes include:
  • Sprains and strains 
  • Intervertebral disc degeneration 
  • Herniated or ruptured discs 
  • Radiculopathy (a condition caused by compression, inflammation and/or injury to a spinal nerve root)
  • Sciatica (compression of the large nerve that travels through the buttocks and extends down the back of the leg)
  • Spondylolisthesis (when a vertebra of the lower spine slips out of place, pinching the nerves)
  • A traumatic injury
  • Spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal column that puts pressure on the spinal cord and nerves)
  • Skeletal irregularities (e.g. scoliosis, lordosis and other congenital anomalies of the spine)
Factors that contribute to back pain
Common back pain often doesn’t have just one root cause. There can be a number of contributing factors which, when combined, result in back pain.
Some of these factors include:
•           Sitting for long periods without taking a break
•           Poor posture
•           Lifting objects that are too heavy
•           Poor core muscle strength
•           Feeling stressed or anxious
•           Smoking
•           Being pregnant
•           Not getting the recommended 30 minutes of exercise a day
•           Being overweight
•           Slipping or falling
Looking after your back as you age
In many cases, back pain is associated with degeneration of the spine caused by the normal wear and tear (spondylosis) of the joints, discs, and bones as we age. Therefore it’s especially important to take care of our backs as we get older. Having the right supportive mattress is a great place to start. (More on this in the following sections.)
Back pain and sleep
Our backs work hard all day, carrying the weight of our bodies. At night, when we’re asleep, they have a chance to relax, and the bones, discs, nerves and muscles can rest, repair and rejuvenate.
However, one of the main problems with back pain is it affects our ability to get a good night’s sleep. Around two-thirds of people experiencing back pain suffer from disrupted sleep, which in turn aggravates back pain, setting in motion a vicious cycle.
Your mattress is the most important factor in supporting your back during sleep. 
Download our free guide “Living with back pain? How to sleep better and get on with your life” to learn more about taking care of your back, managing your pain and getting a good night’s sleep.
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