Back Pain

Back pain is one of the most prevalent health issues in the United States. According to Consumer Reports, approximately 80 percent of adults in the U.S. have experienced back pain at some point in their lives. In fact, a recent study found that lower back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide. The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases reports that aging often brings it about. This usually begins between the ages of 30 and 40 years old. If you are overweight, smoke or have a family history of a medical condition that causes back pain, you may have an increased risk of experiencing it yourself. Maintaining a job that requires frequent lifting, pushing, pulling or twisting can also cause it. The same can be said for people who sit at a desk for long periods of time. Poor posture can also play a role.  

Different types of back pain

Experts make a distinction between acute (short-term) back pain and chronic (long-term) pain. If the pain is acute, it resolves on its own or with the help of over-the-counter pain relievers. Many different factors can cause it. Having a job that necessitates physical labor, like repeated lifting, pushing, pulling or twisting, can affect back health. This is also true for people who sit at a desk for extended periods of time. Sustaining an injury or accident can also cause pain in the back. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, the following conditions are commonly behind back pain: Disk breakdown – this can include a bulging (herniated) disc, a disc bulge or a ruptured disc and this could be particulary painful. Spasms – this painful occurrence refers to a spontaneous muscle contraction in the back. Tense muscles in the back – this refers to tightened muscles that can cause chronic pain. Certain medical conditions are associated with the condition, as well. The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases recognizes the following conditions as back pain culprits:
  • Scoliosis
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Arthritis
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Pregnancy
  • Kidney stones
  • Certain infections
  • Endometriosis
  • Fibromyalgia

Treatment

Experts make a distinction between acute back pain versus chronic, long-term back pain. Acute back pain often resolves itself on its own, but over-the-counter pain relievers may be used in the interim. Treating chronic back pain is different. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, the following techniques are popular treatment options:
  • Heat and/or cold packs
  • Exercise (if deemed appropriate by a doctor)
  • Pain relievers
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Steroid injections
  • Keeping fit by eating well, maintaining a healthy weight and abstaining from smoking
  • Massage
  • Acupuncture/acupressure
Surgery is not a go-to treatment option for back pain. However, a handful of medical conditions (like a herniated disk, for example) may call for surgical intervention.

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