speak to a doctor online

Speak to a doctor online about back pain

Did you know that around 16% of the population, or around 4 million Australians suffer from chronic back problems, while between 70-90% of the population will experience some degree of back pain at some point in their lives? With the stats so high, there’s little wonder why back pain is considered the leading cause of disability in the country.

Chronic back pain is characterised as pain that lasts for three months or longer and may reoccur intermittently or get worse with time, even after the initial cause of the pain has been eliminated. Back pain can occur for many different reasons, but the most common are heavy lifting, repetitive movements and sitting at a desk all day long. If you’re experiencing back pain and are looking for help managing it, a great option is to speak to a doctor online and learn some lifestyle changes to make to help protect your back.

Common causes of back pain:

Back pain can occur for a number of different reasons. Let’s discuss them one by one:

  • Age: As we age, our joints and bones start getting weaker, which is why back pain gets more common as you get older. Back pain caused due to aging can start as early as the age of 30 or 40.
  • Injury: Another common cause of back pain is an injury to the muscles, tendons or ligaments in or near the spine, which can cause straining. Repeated lifting or a sudden, awkward movement can cause injury to the back. Acute fractures or dislocations of the spine can also lead to chronic back pain, even after the bone itself has healed.
  • Degenerative diseases: Several diseases that affect the musculoskeletal system of the body, such as arthritis, osteoporosis, certain types of cancer, spinal stenosis or degenerative disc disease can cause chronic back pain.
  • Weight: People who are obese or are pregnant may be carrying extra weight that can put excessive pressure on their back, leading to back pain.
  • Lifestyle: Slouching at the desk, spending hours at a desk, jobs that require heavy lifting or repeated bending, or long periods of inactivity can all lead to back pain. Other lifestyle factors include smoking, wearing high heels and undergoing long periods of stress.
  • Deformity: Some people are born with spinal abnormalities like scoliosis or kyphosis which causes curvature of the spine. Over time, these can also cause back pain.

Preventing back pain:

If your back pain is stemming from disease or structural problems in the spine, there is little you can do to prevent it. However, there are some steps you can take to avoid injuries that cause back pain:

  • Exercise: Strengthening your core and back muscles can help take the strain off your back when you lift. A strong core works in tandem with your back muscles to stabilise the body and help you walk, stand and lift. Exercising regularly will help keep your muscles loose and active to reduce the risk of injury.
  • Quit smoking: Smoking damages your arteries, including those in the discs and joints in your back. It can also increase your risk of a bone-thinning disease called osteoporosis, leading to back pain.
  • Lift properly: Studies have found that about 45% of all injuries in the workplace occur due to incorrect manual handling. Repeated lifting can strain your back, leading to injuries in the long run. Ensure you follow the following steps when lifting heavy loads:
  • First, evaluate if you can lift the load yourself or if you need another pair of hands or mechanical help.
    • Make sure the path you have to follow with the load is clear.
    • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, distributing your weight evenly on both feet.
    • Bend with your feet, not your back as you lift.
    • Hold the load close to your body as you lift.
    • Maintain the natural curve of your back, avoiding tilting back or twisting.
  • Pay attention to your posture: When spending long hours at the desk, pay attention to how you sit. It might be helpful to get ergonomic equipment, including an ergonomic chair with good lumbar support and adjustable seat, back and armrests, as well as an ergonomic keyboard, mouse and a monitor that’s at the right height for you. Alternate between sitting and standing with the help of a sit-stand desk and place your feet firmly on the ground with thighs parallel to the floor.
  • Modify repetitive tasks: If your job involves doing the same tasks repetitively, consider investing in, or asking your workplace for lift-assist tools. For example, if your job requires you to spend a significant amount of time on the phone, consider switching to a hands-free model so the handset is not nestled between your ear and shoulder.
  • Lose excess weight: Excess body weight puts extra stress on your back and can strain the muscles. People who carry more weight around their belly may cause their spine to bend because their centre of gravity is shifted forward. Many pregnant women also experience back pain for the same reason. Losing extra weight can also help reduce the risk of injury.

If you’re frequently experiencing back pain, having a live chat with a doctor can help you determine the cause and the best way forward to help you reduce the pain. The online doctor may also be able to help you get a medical certificate if you need to take some time off work to give your back some rest.

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