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Back problems describes a range of conditions related to the bones, joints, connective tissue, muscles and nerves of the back. These conditions can affect the neck (cervical spine), upper back (thoracic spine) and lower back (lumbar spine) as well as the sacrum and tailbone (coccyx).

Back problems include:

  • pain in the lower, middle and upper back caused by a range of injuries and conditions
  • pain including tingling, numbness and weakness in the legs that starts from the lower back
  • narrowing in the canal of the spine through which the spinal cord passes
  • degeneration of the spine caused by wear and tear on the joints
  • pressure on a segment of the spinal nerve attached to the spinal cord
  • neck pain/stiff neck caused by disc degeneration.


Back problems can have many causes, relating to issues associated with posture and injuries, diseases such as osteoarthritis, disc disease, osteoporosis, and some genetic conditions. Other factors may increase the risk of developing back problems, such as age, physical fitness, smoking, being overweight, and the type of work a person does [1]. Recently, studies show that back problems can have a significant genetic component [2].

Back problems are common conditions. Estimates from the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2011–12 National Health Survey show about 3 million Australians (13.6% of the population) have back problems. It is estimated that 70–90% of people will suffer from lower back pain in some form at some point in their lives.

Pain is the main symptom in most back problems. It is a common reason for pain among younger and middle-aged adults, but can start in childhood [3] .One study of people with long term back problems reported 14% experience constant or persistent pain, and 86% experience pain one day per week [4].


References

  1. Raspe H, Matthis C, Croft P & O'Neill T 2004. Variation in back pain between countries: the example of Britain and Germany. Spine 29:1017-1021.
  2. Williams FMK, Bansel AT, van Meurs JB et. al. 2012. Novel genetic variants associated with lumbar disc degeneration in northern Europeans: a meta-analysis of 4600 subjects. Annals of Rheumatic Diseases. DOI: 10.1136/annrheumdis-2012-201551.
  3. Manek NJ & MacGregor AJ 2005. Epidemiology of back disorders: prevalence, risk factors, and prognosis. Current Opinion in Rheumatology 17: 134-140.
  4. Quittan M 2002. Management of back pain. Disability and Rehabilitation 24:423-434.