It’s common for one to experience back pain once in a while. To some people, the pain can be so unbearable that it prevents them from involving in any strenuous activities. According to medics, understanding the real cause why the back is aching is key in getting the right medications.
Causes and management
According to Ivan Ntwari, a general practitioner in Kigali, although back pain can occur at any age, it’s more common in adults due to degeneration of the joints. In most cases, he says back pain occurs due to lifting heavy objects, poor posture over a long period of time and sports injuries, among others.
“Any problems with the components that make up the back such as complex structure of muscle lingaments, tendons disc and bones can lead to one developing back problems,” he says.
Ntwari says patients with osteoarthritis, which is the degeneration of joint cartilage and the underlying bone, commonly experience problems with the joints in the hips, lower back, knees and hands.
On the other hand, he notes that people who are depressed, stressed or have back injuries can easily develop chronic back pain.
Gonzalue Niyigaba, a general practitioner at University Teaching Hospital, Kigali (CHUK), says patients suffering from cancer of the spine are exposed to suffering back pain because the tumor on the spine presses against the nerves resulting in pain.
He adds that those people who have sleeping disorders such as difficulty falling or staying a sleep are also likely to experience back pain.
“Those who sit for long hours, especially in a wrong posture, may in the long run experience signs such as stiffness across the shoulders, headaches and pain in the back and sometimes at the neck,” he says.
To avoid common and frequent back pains, Niyigaba says practising the right sitting posture is important.
“Because people spend most of the time seated, especially those doing office work, one of the remedies to adopt is adjusting the height of the chair to rest the feet flat,” he says.
Niyigaba further notes that the habit of crossing the legs while sitting should be avoided; instead, putting the ankles in front of the knees is advisable. Using a small pillow on the chair is also vital, especially if the chair doesn’t support the lower back’s curve.
He adds that keeping the upper neck and back straight should be practiced to safeguard the back.
Back pain in women
Although back pain affects both genders, Iba Mayale, a gynecologist at Clinic Galien in Remera, Gasabo District, says women are more prone to it due to various reasons.
He says pregnancy and menopause are among the various reasons women are exposed to back pain.
“When a woman is pregnant, the weight of the baby and the hormonal changes in the body during pregnancy may exert a lot of pressure on the lower back area,” he says.
Mayale, however, points out that this is normal and fades away two weeks after giving birth. He advises that to ease the pain, women should do light stretches and gentle exercises under supervision of an expert.
Several studies have established that women in the reproductive age experience back pain during menstruation because their demand for calcium increases during puberty. There is also strong evidence suggesting that older women experience intensified calcium depletion as a result of osteoporosis.
Mayale warns that back pain shouldn’t be taken for granted, adding that people should seek treatment whenever they experience pain.
He adds that complications such as disability, nurve damage, weight gain and depression are among the risk factors of back pain.
“When one has a problem of back pain, it restricts them from involving in certain activities such as movement, leading to weight gain because of inactivity of the person affected,” Mayale adds.
He notes that muscles may also become weaker due to staying in one position for long periods and body posture may worsen due to muscle and ligament weakness, resulting in body fat accumulation.