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Luca Cattaneo

About Luca Cattaneo

Marketing executive at Douglas Chiropractic & Physiotherapy Clinic.

When Does Acute Back Pain Become Chronic Back Pain?

back pain cork

Back pain is an extremely common condition, with about 9 in 10 adults experiencing it at some point in their life. It may be characterized as a dull, shooting, burning or piercing pain, radiating into the neck, the arms and hands as well as the legs or feet.

Back pain can be typically classified into two main duration-based categories: acute back pain and chronic back pain.

·  Acute Back Pain

Acute pain is the body’s normal response to damage such as physical injuries. It’s the type of pain you experience when you touch a hot stove or when you smash your finger with a hammer: it usually comes on fast and lasts up to 12 weeks. When pain persists, it can be affected by other influences, which can increase the chances of developing chronic pain.

Sub-acute back pain refers to the second half of the acute period (6 to 12 weeks).

·  Chronic Back Pain

Chronic back pain is commonly defined as a period of pain that persists for longer than 12 weeks, even after an initial injury or underlying cause of acute pain has been treated.

As pain moves from the acute phase to the chronic stage, factors unrelated to tissue damage and injury – such as anxiety, depression and decline in physical condition due to lack of exercise – become more important. Chronic pain is much less well understood than acute pain and sometimes no clear reason for the development of chronic back pain can be identified.

Neuropathic back pain is a particular, complex, chronic pain state in which no signs of the original injury remain, caused by damage or injury to the nerves. Neuropathic pain commonly produces a burning, cold or stabbing sensation against which traditional pain killers cannot help very much.

How much sugar is in your Easter egg?

Easter is just around the corner – it’s that time of the year again, when chocolate eggs and chocolate bunnies are on display in every supermarket in Ireland.

This Easter, Irish children and adults will eat their way through more than 1.5 million chocolate eggs: a 168-tonne sugar rush! Have you ever wondered how much sugar is there lurking in your favourite treats?

Children aged 4 to 6 years old should eat no more than 19 grams of added sugar a day, while children aged 7 to 10 years old should have no more than 24 grams.

A standard-sized Cadbury Creme Egg alone contains 26.5 grams (6.5 teaspoons) of sugar.

chocolate-egg-sugar-content

Some larger chocolate eggs can contain 8-10 times the recommended daily sugar intake for children.

For instance, an extra-large Nestle Yorkie chocolate egg contains a staggering amount of 124 grams (31 teaspoons) of sugar: approximately 7 times the daily maximum recommended intake for a 6-year old kid. What’s more, this chocolate egg is sold together with a collection of 3 Yorkie chocolate bars (an extra 80 grams of sugar, approximately).

A research conducted by Safefood Ireland in 2016 revealed that ONE medium Easter egg contains on average 3 times the daily maximum recommended amount of sugar for a 6-year old child:

easter egg sugar
Infographic and data source: the Irish Examiner

Children often end up with a stash of several Easter eggs of various sizes: in the Republic of Ireland, 23% of children will get between 6 and 10 eggs, while 12% will take proud delivery of 10 to 15 eggs. Letting a child eat such a large amount of sugary products in one or few days is a threat to their physical and psychological well-being.

We are not here to take all the fun out of Easter: one sugar bomb every so often isn’t going to make you fat or give you diabetes. Just remember to read the chocolate products’ labels, indulge in moderation and limit your kids’ chocolate intake on Easter Sunday.

Here’s a few tips for a healthier Easter:

  • For the least added sugar, choose dark chocolate (70% cocoa), which has the added health bonus of antioxidants.
  • Individually wrapped pieces of chocolate offer built-in portion control.
  • Try mixing up the celebration with non-sugary gifts, such as coloured hard-boiled eggs or chocolate-covered fruit!
  • Decide how much you and your kids are going to eat and put the rest of the chocolate away, out of reach.
  • The Easter bunny loves carrots: use them for preparing some delicious (and healthy) home-made treats!

Can Back Pain be Inherited?

back pain hereditaryBack pain is a complex medical condition which can be, to some extent, influenced by genetics. Some conditions that cause chronic back pain are hereditary: this means that back pain can indirectly be passed from generation to generation.

A growing number of studies support the existence of a connection between chronic back pain and individual genetic heritage. In 2014, researchers at London King’s College identified a gene linked to age-related spinal discs degeneration, a common cause of lower back pain (view the paper). Research is still underway to identify more specific genes that may trigger the onset of disc problems and be, consequently, linked to back pain.

Other studies have shown that, despite extraordinary differences in occupational and leisure-time physical loading conditions, identical twins are more likely to develop back problems and degenerative disc disease then siblings who are not identical twins.

Risk Factors

There are many other risk factors for developing back pain which are, in most cases, more important than any genetic component:

  • Being over weight
  • Smoking
  • Physical strenuous work
  • Sedentary life style

The same poor life style choices that lead to heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes can cause spinal degeneration. Although the fact that back problems run in our families might put us at slightly higher risk for experiencing episodes of chronic back pain, in reality there’s a lot we can do about the most critical risk factors listed above. The prevention of back problems is something that can often be done by paying attention to regular and moderate exercise, quitting smoking and maintaining a healthy weight.

Causes of Upper Back Pain

Upper back pain is a phenomenon that affects all age groups.

Your upper back (or thoracic spine) is that portion of your spine between your neck and your abdomen, roughly parallel to your chest. It is the largest portion of the spine, consisting of 12 of the 24 vertebrae.

upper back pain cork chiropractor

For comparison, the neck has 7 vertebrae, while the lower back has 5 vertebrae. All of the thoracic vertebrae articulate with ribs and together protect the thorax.

Upper back pain is not as common as lower back pain or neck pain, because the bones in this area of the back don’t flex or move as much as the bones in your lower back or neck.

Your upper back is there to provide stability. Since it has fewer moving parts, it’s less susceptible to strain, or to degenerative conditions like bulging or herniated discs. Only about 1% of all disc herniations occur in the thoracic spine.

The vast majority of cases of upper back pain are due to one (or both) of the following causes:

  • Muscular Irritation
  • Joint Dysfunction

Because the upper back pain is related to large muscles in the shoulder area, most rehabilitation programs will include a great deal of stretching and strengthening exercises.

·   Muscular IrritationUpper back pain woman

The shoulder girdle attaches by large muscles to the scapula and the back of the thoracic rib cage. These large upper back muscles are prone to developing irritation (myofascial pain) that can be painful and difficult to work out.

Myofascial pain can be caused by repetitive motions used in jobs or hobbies or by stress-related muscle tension. Muscle strains, sports injuries, car accidents or other injuries can all result in pain from muscular irritation.

Often, muscular irritation and upper back pain is due to either de-conditioning (lack of strength) or overuse injuries.

·   Joint Dysfunction

The cause of strain or joint dysfunction is usually stress of one kind or another. Physical stress, such as stooping over your desk for hours at a time, can be an obvious cause. Less evident is the mental or emotional stress that comes from worrying about finances or grieving over a loss. Mental/emotional stress can lead to tensed shoulders and shoulder blades, irritating nerves in the thoracic spine and causing upper back pain.


Just as with pain in the lower back, upper back pain can be the result of a number of different factors. There are certain factors in your life (such as: not enough exercise, overweight, sitting for too long…) which may contribute to your upper back pain, by repeatedly stressing one area of your back.

If you’re suffering from upper back pain, make sure you consult with a chiropractor or physiotherapist before beginning treatment. If you can get the problem diagnosed and treated early, your upper back pain will quickly become a thing of the past.