BACK PAIN

Men's Fitness - - Beat Disease -

THE SYMPTOMS

Chronic pain in your back – not an ob­vi­ous re­cent strain from some­thing such as gym ac­tiv­ity or fall­ing off your bike, but pain that per­sists and gets worse over time.

THE CUL­PRITS

Most back pain is caused by mi­nor sprains or strains – which will be familiar to MF read­ers – or pinched or ir­ri­tated nerves. Repet­i­tive sports, heavy lift­ing, slouch­ing at your desk and bad driv­ing pos­ture don’t help. Back pain can also be caused by stress (and the ac­com­pa­ny­ing tensed back mus­cles) or by ex­tra body­weight strain­ing the back. In ex­treme cases it may sig­nify frozen shoul­der, anky­los­ing spondyli­tis, a slipped disc or sci­at­ica.

‘Back pain is clas­si­cally in the lower back,’ says Rata­jczak. ‘If it’s mov­ing up the spine and doesn’t al­le­vi­ate when you lie down, and you’re also los­ing weight, it could be some­thing much more se­ri­ous such as bone can­cer.’

WHAT TO DO

When sport and ex­er­cise are a ma­jor part of your life, you’re highly likely to ex­pe­ri­ence back pain. ‘Sports that use repet­i­tive im­pact or twist­ing – such as run­ning, golf and ten­nis – put you at a higher risk,’ says Dr Ajai Seth, sport and ex­er­cise medicine ad­vi­sor to char­ity chal­lenge tour com­pany Clas­sic Tours (clas­sic­tours.co.uk). ‘Walk­ing, swim­ming and yoga can help, as can chang­ing your sleep­ing po­si­tion.’

If the pain per­sists, your GP can re­fer you to an NHS phys­io­ther­a­pist, but the wait­ing lists can be in­ter­minable. You may pre­fer to by­pass the NHS and head straight for a pri­vate phys­io­ther­a­pist or os­teopath. There’s some ev­i­dence that acupunc­ture can work too.

NEXT STEPS

Some­times it can seem as if there are as many treat­ments for back pain in the world as there are backs. GPs are likely to rec­om­mend phys­io­ther­apy, but the likes of os­teopaths and acupunc­tur­ists of­fer var­i­ous cures, from ma­nip­u­la­tion to nee­dles. You’ll also come across more rad­i­cal treat­ments such as laser ther­apy, in­ter­fer­en­tial ther­apy, ther­a­peu­tic ul­tra­sound and TENS ma­chines, but few have been proven con­clu­sively to work.

Trapped or in­flamed nerves can be treated with steroid or anaes­thetic in­jec­tions. Surgery is of­fered when ev­ery other rem­edy has failed. For pro­lapsed discs you may need a dis­cec­tomy, where the dam­aged part of the disc is re­moved through a tiny in­ci­sion in your back.

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