Last updated on Jun 22nd, 2020 at 06:27 pm

Research has shown that one in two adults and one in three children or adolescents in Africa will suffer from back pain at any given time, but evidence shows that specific exercises can prevent the onset and minimise the chances of recurrences in children and adolescents.

This is particularly important since back pain during childhood and the teenage years is the strongest predictor of persistent back pain in adulthood.

This is according to Prof Quinette Louw, a physiotherapist and professor in the Division of Physiotherapy at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) at Stellenbosch University (SU).

New emerging evidence also shows that people who suffer from back pain have a reduced capability to financially sustain themselves and generate wealth

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This is particularly important for low-and-middle income countries like South Africa where people in informal employment are not protected by legislation.

Louw says that back pain affects the overall well-being of a person and limits participation in work, family and social activities.

Initially back pain may be caused by a dysfunction or disorder of a specific bone, muscle or neural structure but as it persists, back pain develops into a multifactorial problem for which there is no single cause.

Therefore, evidence-based guidelines currently discourage extensive medical investigations to determine a specific cause for persistent back pain.

Dr Linzette Morris, a senior lecturer in Physiotherapy at the FMHS, explains that many of the abnormalities noted on scans or x-rays are not necessarily related to the pain, as many people without back pain present with similar structural abnormalities of the spine.

In most cases, back pain does not require urgent care and will get better within six weeks without treatment

Morris however advises that one should see a doctor immediately if back pain is a result of trauma, or if the pain is accompanied by any of the following symptoms:

Fever and chills, swelling of the back, unexplained recent weight loss, significant leg weakness, sudden bowel and/or bladder incontinence, numbness around your genitals, buttocks or rectum and continuous abdominal pain.

Lifestyle changes are also strongly advocated as effective means to self-manage back pain

These include engaging in regular physical activity, losing weight and maintaining a proper posture.

Morris says a physiotherapist can assist with the prescription of appropriate and safe exercises for people suffering from low back pain. “However, back pain sufferers should understand that it is a recurring, persistent problem and adherence to exercise programs and strategies to minimise back pain exacerbation is crucial.”

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.