Back pain is one of the most common reasons people visit the doctor or miss work, and is a leading cause of disability worldwide.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent or relieve most back pain episodes. When prevention fails, simple home treatment and proper body mechanics can often heal your back and keep it functioning within a few weeks. Surgery is rarely necessary to treat back pain.
Back pain symptoms
Back pain can range from sore muscles to a shooting, burning, or stabbing sensation. In addition, the pain may radiate down your leg or get worse when bending, twisting, lifting, standing, or walking.
Low Back Pain
When to the doctor
Most back pain gradually improves with home and self-treatment, usually within a few weeks. Contact your doctor if your back pain:
- Has been on for a few weeks
- Is severe and does not improve with rest
- Spreads down one or both legs, especially if the pain is below the knee
- Causes weakness, numbness, or tingling in one or both legs
- Is accompanied by unexplained weight loss
- In rare cases, back pain can indicate a serious medical problem. Get immediate help if your back pain:
Causes new bowel or bladder problems
Is accompanied by fever
After a fall, blow to the back or other injury
Back pain often develops without a cause that your doctor can identify with a test or imaging study. Conditions commonly associated with back pain include:
Muscle or ligament strain. Repetitive heavy lifting or a sudden clumsy movement can strain the back muscles and ligaments of the spine. If you are in poor physical condition, the constant strain on your back can cause painful muscle spasms.
Bulging or ruptured discs. Intervertebral discs act as cushions between the bones (vertebrae) in your spine. The soft material in a disc can bulge or tear and press on a nerve. However, you can have a herniated disc or herniated disc without back pain. Disc disease is often discovered incidentally when you have X-rays of your spine for some other reason.
Arthritis. Osteoarthritis can affect the lower back. In some cases, arthritis in the spine can cause narrowing of the space around the spinal cord, a condition called spinal stenosis.
Osteoporosis. The vertebrae in your spine can develop painful fractures when your bones become porous and brittle.
Anyone can develop back pain, including children and adolescents. These factors can put you at a higher risk of developing back pain:
- Age. Back pain occurs more frequently with increasing age, around the age of 30 or 40.
- lack of exercise. Weak, unused muscles in the back and abdomen can lead to back pain.
- overweight. Being overweight puts additional strain on your back.
- Diseases. Some types of arthritis and cancer can contribute to back pain.
- Improper lifting. Using your back instead of your legs can lead to back pain.
- mental conditions. People who are prone to depression and anxiety seem to have a higher risk of back pain.
- Smoking. Smokers are more likely to suffer from back pain. This can occur because smoking leads to more coughing, which can lead to herniated discs. Smoking can also reduce blood flow to the spine and increase the risk of osteoporosis.
You can prevent back pain or prevent it from coming back by improving your physical condition and learning and practicing proper body mechanics.
For a healthy and strong back:
- The exercise. Regular, low-impact aerobic activities — those that don't strain or jar your back — can increase strength and endurance in your back and allow your muscles to function better. Hiking and swimming are good choices. Talk to your doctor about what activities you could try.
- Build muscle strength and flexibility. Abdominal and back exercises that strengthen your core help condition these muscles to work together like a natural corset for your back.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight puts a strain on the back muscles. If you are overweight, losing weight can prevent back pain.
- Stop smoking. Smoking increases the risk of back pain. The risk increases with the number of cigarettes smoked per day, so quitting should help reduce this risk.
Avoid movements that twist or strain your back. Use your body properly:
stay smart don't smile Maintain a neutral pelvic position. If you have to stand for a long time, place one foot on a low footstool to give your lower back some relief. Alternate Feet. Good posture can reduce stress on the back muscles.
- Sit Wisely. Choose a seat with good lower back support, armrests, and a swivel base. Placing a pillow or rolled-up towel in the lower back of your back can help maintain the normal curve. Keep your knees and hips level. Change your position frequently, at least every half hour.
- Lift intelligently. Avoid heavy lifting if possible, but if you have to lift something heavy, let your legs do the work. Keep your back straight - don't twist - and only bend your knees. Keep the load close to your body. Find a lifting partner if the object is heavy or awkward.
Because back pain is so widespread, numerous products promise to prevent or alleviate it. But there's no clear evidence that special shoes, shoe inserts, back braces, specially designed furniture, or stress management programs can help.
Also, there doesn't seem to be one type of mattress that works best for people with back pain. It's probably a matter of what feels most comfortable to you.