Back pain is something that commonly affects a large number of individuals – particularly those who are elderly, have jobs that require them to do heavy lifting, or play sports.

As we age, it is not uncommon for our spines to age with us. Degenerative changes can occur with the spine beginning at age 40. One example of spine degeneration is known as osteoarthritis, which occurs when the cartilage in the spine breaks down over time. Along with your age, you are also at an increased risk of developing OA if there is a family history. Symptoms of osteoarthritis include back pain (especially when moving), tenderness when pressure is applied to the back, loss of flexibility and/or stiffness.

While osteoarthritis cannot be reversed, Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family physician in Vancouver, says its symptoms can be effectively managed by making certain lifestyle changes – including regular physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight. You can find tips from Dr. Ali Ghahary on how to live a healthy lifestyle (including healthy eating) by clicking here.

As mentioned, those who do lots of heavy lifting at their jobs are also at risk of developing reoccurring back pain and back problems. In fact, this is one of the most common causes of back pain amongst working Canadians. The lower spine, which is also known as the lumbar spine, depends on soft tissues such as the tendons, muscles and ligaments. However, it is when too much pressure or stress is placed on these soft tissues that pain or injuries can occur, resulting lumbar and muscle sprains, muscle spasms, and even inflammation and local swelling. Depending on the severity of the injury, the pain can range from mild to moderate to intense. Pain as a result of these kinds of injuries is usually at its worst during the first 3 to 4 days, though it is not common to experience the pain for as long as 6 weeks. You may experience pain by making certain movements, such a bending forward or standing in an upright position. When it comes to muscle injuries, they are fairly straightforward to diagnose and treat.

To ensure that it is nothing more than a muscle injury and not other, more serious conditions that can also cause back pain (i.e. gallbladder problems or kidney infections), Dr. Ali Ghahary may refer patients for medical imaging tests such as CT scans, an MRI, X-Rays, and even pelvic ultrasounds.

When it comes to treating back pain, Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends patients take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication such as Ibuprofen (Advil) or Acetaminophen (Tylenol). Dr. Ali Ghahary may also prescribe patients with muscle relaxants, though they should only be taken on a short-term basis as they not only have serious side effects, but can also become addicting. Aside from medication, Dr. Ghahary also suggests applying an ice pack to the affected area at 10-minute intervals several times throughout the day.