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How Common Is Back Pain

People Who See Chiropractors Are More Satisfied With Their Care

Common Causes of Back Pain

Many people with back pain also visit chiropractors. Although people with back pain are more likely to go to a physician than to a chiropractor for relief, back pain patients who see chiropractors report that they are more satisfied with their care than those who see medical doctors. Patients who see chiropractors are more likely to say that their provider explained their treatment and provided advice on self-care.

How To Relieve Back Pain

The following tips may help reduce your back pain and speed up your recovery:

  • stay as active as possible and try to continue your daily activities this is 1 of the most important things you can do, as resting for long periods is likely to make the pain worse
  • try exercises and stretches for back pain other activities such as walking, swimming, yoga and pilates may also be helpful
  • take anti-inflammatory painkillers, such as ibuprofen remember to check the medicine is safe for you to take and ask a pharmacist if you’re not sure
  • use hot or cold compression packs for short-term relief you can buy these from a pharmacy, or a hot water bottle or a bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a cloth or towel will work just as well

Although it can be difficult, it helps if you stay optimistic and recognise that your pain should get better. People who manage to stay positive despite their pain tend to recover quicker.

Back pain usually gets better on its own within a few weeks or months and you may not need to see a doctor or other healthcare professional.

But it’s a good idea to get help if:

  • the pain does not start to improve within a few weeks
  • the pain stops you doing your day-to-day activities
  • the pain is very severe or gets worse over time
  • you’re worried about the pain or struggling to cope

If you see a GP they will ask about your symptoms, examine your back and discuss possible treatments.

They may refer you to a specialist doctor or a physiotherapist for further help.

Low Back Pain Fact Sheet

If you have had lower back pain, you are not alone. Back pain is one of most common reasons people see a doctor or miss days at work. Even school-age children can have back pain.

Back pain can range in intensity from a dull, constant ache to a sudden, sharp or shooting pain. It can begin suddenly as a result of an accident or by lifting something heavy, or it can develop over time as we age. Getting too little exercise followed by a strenuous workout also can cause back pain.

There are two types of back pain:

  • Acute, or short-term back pain lasts a few days to a few weeks. Most low back pain is acute. It tends to resolve on its own within a few days with self-care and there is no residual loss of function. In some cases a few months are required for the symptoms to disappear.
  • Chronic back pain is defined as pain that continues for 12 weeks or longer, even after an initial injury or underlying cause of acute low back pain has been treated. About 20 percent of people affected by acute low back pain develop chronic low back pain with persistent symptoms at one year. Even if pain persists, it does not always mean there is a medically serious underlying cause or one that can be easily identified and treated. In some cases, treatment successfully relieves chronic low back pain, but in other cases pain continues despite medical and surgical treatment.

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What Can I Do For Low Back Pain At Home

If your lower back pain has just started, the best thing you can do is start a log. Record your symptoms, times, dates and which activities trigger the pain or make it worse or better. Take this information to your family physician if the pain doesnt resolve on its own. It will make diagnosing the cause much easier.

Once you know which motion or position causes your lower back pain, try to avoid it and see if you get better. Icing the painful spot can also help. And so can over-the-counter pain relievers that help reduce inflammation. Just remember that pain killers treat only the symptom pain and not its cause.

Muscle Strain And Ligament Sprain

The Twenty

A low back sprain or strain can happen suddenly, or can develop slowly over time from repetitive movements.

  • Strains occur when a muscle is stretched too far and tears, damaging the muscle itself.
  • Sprains happen when over-stretching and tearing affects ligaments, which connect the bones together.

For practical purposes, it does not matter whether the muscle or ligament is damaged, as the symptoms and treatment are the same.

Common causes of sprain and strain include:

  • Lifting a heavy object, or twisting the spine while lifting
  • Sudden movements that place too much stress on the low back, such as a fall
  • Poor posture over time
  • Sports injuries, especially in sports that involve twisting or large forces of impact

While sprains and strains do not sound serious and do not typically cause long-lasting pain, the acute pain can be quite severe.

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Can Lower Back Pain Be Related To Weather

If you feel like your lower back pain worsens on days when its cold or the weather is changing, you are not imagining things. Back pain can indeed be related to barometric pressure and outdoor temperature. Changes in pressure can sometimes cause pain in arthritic joints, including the spine. Muscles and joints in general react to the environment, which can make them stiffer and more likely to suffer an injury.

Back Pain And The Opioid Epidemic

The opioid epidemic has led many respected health groups to reconsider the value of a conservative approach to low back pain . Most notably, the American College of Physicians , the largest medical-specialty society in the world, updated its low back pain treatment guideline in 2017 to support a conservative approach to care.

Published in the Annals of Internal Medicine and based on a review of randomized controlled trials and observational studies, the ACP guideline cites heat therapy, massage, acupuncture and spinal manipulation as noninvasive, non-drug options for low back pain treatment. The guideline further states that only when such treatments provide little or no relief should patients move on to medicines such as ibuprofen or muscle relaxants, which research indicates have limited pain-relief effects. According to ACP, prescription opioids should be a last resort for those suffering from low back pain, as the risk of addiction and overdose may outweigh the benefits.

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Two Back Pain Situations You Should Take Seriously Right Away No Delay

These two back pain scenarios might be medical emergencies. They do not necessarily mean something horrible is wrong, but its important to make sure.

  • Pain and weakness in both legs, especially if its also hard to pee. More about this below.
  • Any accident with forces that may have been sufficient to fracture your spine. Please seek thorough medical assessment promptly, including an X-ray to look for a fracture. You really do need an X-ray to ensure that your spine is not actually broken. They arent necessarily as obvious as youd think!12
  • Isnt it rather obvious that a potential spinal fracture is an emergency?

    Youd think so. But consider this story of a motorcycle accident: many years ago, a friend hit a car that had pulled out from a side street. He flew over the car & landed on his head. Bystanders showed their ignorance of spinal fracture by, yikes, carelessly moving him. In fact, his thoracic spine was significantly fractured yet the hospital actually refused to do an X-ray because he had no obvious symptoms of a spinal fracture. Incredible! The next day, a horrified orthopedic surgeon ordered an X-ray immediately, confirming the fracture & quite possibly saved him from paralysis.

    Pain + weakness in both legs as symptoms of cauda equina syndrome or not

    That said, obviously you should be checked out if you are experiencing true saddle numbness.17 Even if its not CES, any significant malfunction of your plumbing should be taken seriously.

    When Upper Back Symptoms Need Medical Attention

    Low back pain- The most common causes of lower back pain

    If upper back pain is accompanied by any of the following, it should be checked by a doctor immediately:

    • Problems with balance or walking
    • Difficulty with bladder or bowel control
    • Pins-and-needles tingling, weakness, and/or numbness anywhere in the upper back or below, such as in the chest, stomach, buttock, or down the legs
    • Trouble breathing

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    Downhearted Feelings Are Common Among Adults With Back Pain

    Substantially larger proportions of adults with back pain, compared to those without back pain, report feeling sad, worthless, or hopeless . Almost three-quarters 72 percent of those with back pain report that such feelings have interfered with their life, compared to 61 percent of those without back pain. People with chronic back pain report significant levels of psychological distress, including feelings of anger and depression, while people who have suffered an acute episode of back pain are less likely to report these feelings.

    Signs Your Back Pain Might Be An Emergency

    In our 20s and 30s, normal back pain often can be attributed to factors of daily life, such as sitting too long, picking up children, or overdoing it while exercising.

    In our 40s and older, work injuries and the beginnings of arthritis and degenerative conditions are more common.

    Back pain is so common, in fact, that many patients shrug off symptoms that might indicate a medical emergency.

    Approximately 80% of adults will experience back pain in their lives, so its important to be able to identify the severity of your symptoms and track how long the pain lasts.

    If back pain can be associated with a specific activity, such as lifting or twisting wrong, and the pain goes away within 72 hours after resting and applying ice, its usually nothing to worry about. However, if pain creeps on gradually, appears suddenly, or doesn’t go away, you might have a more serious condition.

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    One In Four Adults With Back Pain Is In Fair To Poor Physical Health

    Compared to adults without back pain, larger proportions of adults with any type of back pain report fair to poor mental and physical health. For example, the proportion of adults with back pain reporting fair to poor physical health 25 percent is more than double that of those without back pain 11 percent .

    The Tricky One: Cancer As A Cause Of Low Back Pain And The Necessity Of Testing Just In Case When The Symptoms Justify It

    7 Common Causes of Upper Back Pain

    Sorry I have to use the C word I know its kind of a bummer. But C happens.

    A few cancers in their early stages can be hard to tell apart from ordinary back pain a bone cancer in the vertebrae, for instance and these create a frustrating diagnostic problem. They are too rare for doctors to inflict cancer testing on every low back pain patient just in case. And yet the possibility cannot be dismissed, either! This is an unsolveable problem.

    Most cancers and ominous problems will inevitably start to cause other, distinctive, ominous symptoms, and it wont be long before someone catches on that theres more going on than just back pain. So it truly is an extraordinary circumstance for back pain to be ominous without causing other symptoms that raise the alarm.

    For example, in 2017, the New England Journal of Medicine reported on a creepy case of slowly growing neurological deficit caused by a very stealthy cancer, which took a lot of diagnostic effort to solve.25shudder So sneaky cancers happen but they are crazy rare.

    This is an unholy combination of factors: the exact same symptoms can have either an extremely rare but serious cause, or an extremely common but harmless cause that can be greatly aggravated by excessive alarm!

    My favourite epitaph: I told you I was sick!

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    All Of The Worst Possible Causes Of Back Pain And Their Major Features

    None of these are common. All of them usually cause serious symptoms that are easy to take seriously. Some of them can fly under the radar in early stages, but usually not for long. The names of the conditions link to carefully chosen articles from good sources.

    The worst possible causes of back pain

    what is it?

    Finucane LM, Downie A, Mercer C, et al. International Framework for Red Flags for Potential Serious Spinal Pathologies. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2020 Jul 50:350372. PubMed #32438853

    Onset Of Upper Back Pain Symptoms

    Upper back pain symptoms could start any number of ways, including:

    • Sudden. Pain could begin immediately after an injury or out of the blue for no apparent reason at all.
    • Delayed. Sometimes pain from an injury takes a few hours or longer before it shows up. The reason for this is not always known, but it could be due to an inflammatory process or how pain might be felt in another area of the body before it is noticed in the upper back.
    • Gradual. Pain may start out mild and slowly worsen over time.

    Sometimes upper back pain comes and goes. Intermittent pain may or may not become worse over time, depending on the cause. Pain could feel worse in the morning and get better during the day, or it might be worse in the evening but feel better after rest.

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    What Research Is Being Done

    The mission of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke is to seek fundamental knowledge of the brain and nervous system and to use that knowledge to reduce the burden of neurological disease. NINDS is a component of the National Institutes of Health , the leading supporter of biomedical research in the world.

    As a primary supporter of research on pain and pain mechanisms, NINDS is a member of the NIH Pain Consortium, which was established to promote collaboration among the many NIH Institutes and Centers with research programs and activities addressing pain. On an even broader scale, NIH participates in the Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee, a federal advisory committee that coordinates research across other U.S. Department of Health and Human Services agencies as well as the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.

    Use Of Certain Health Care Services Is Greater For Adults With Back Pain

    Medical Monday: Most Common Causes for Back Pain

    Adults with any type of back pain use substantially more health care services than those without back pain. Some 83 percent of adults with any back pain, compared to 66 percent of adults without any back pain, have seen a physician at least once in the past year. The median number of annual visits to a physician by those with back pain is almost twice that of those without back pain 5 and 3, respectively. Compared to adults without back pain, larger proportions of adults with any back pain also see non-physicians, including physical and occupational therapists.

    Similarly, a larger proportion of adults with any type of back pain takes prescription medications , and they fill more prescriptions on annual basis than those without back pain 10 and 7, comparatively.

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    Common Medications Can Prolong Back Pain Study Says

    A clinical trial will be needed to verify the research, which offered a warning about taking steroids or nonprescription drugs to soothe aches that many experience.

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    By Gina Kolata

    The very treatments often used to soothe pain in the lower back, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says is the most common type of pain, might cause it to last longer, according to a new study.

    Managing pain with steroids and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen, can actually turn a wrenched back into a chronic condition, the study found.

    Some medical experts urged caution in interpreting the results too broadly. The study did not use the gold standard for medical research, which would be a clinical trial in which people with back pain would be randomly assigned to take a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug or a placebo and followed to see who developed chronic pain. Instead, it involved observations of patients, an animal study and an analysis of patients in a large database.

    Its intriguing but requires further study, said Dr. Steven J. Atlas, director of primary care practice-based research and quality improvement at Massachusetts General Hospital.

    Dr. Thomas Buchheit, director of the regenerative pain therapies program at Duke, had a different view.

    It was a huge difference, she added.

    What Are The Risk Factors For Developing Low Back Pain

    Anyone can have back pain. Factors that can increase the risk for low back pain include:

    Age: The first attack of low back pain typically occurs between the ages of 30 and 50, and back pain becomes more common with advancing age. Loss of bone strength from osteoporosis can lead to fractures, and at the same time, muscle elasticity and tone decrease. The intervertebral discs begin to lose fluid and flexibility with age, which decreases their ability to cushion the vertebrae. The risk of spinal stenosis also increases with age.

    Fitness level: Back pain is more common among people who are not physically fit. Weak back and abdominal muscles may not properly support the spine. Weekend warriorspeople who go out and exercise a lot after being inactive all weekare more likely to suffer painful back injuries than people who make moderate physical activity a daily habit. Studies show that low-impact aerobic exercise can help maintain the integrity of intervertebral discs.

    Weight gain: Being overweight, obese, or quickly gaining significant amounts of weight can put stress on the back and lead to low back pain.

    Genetics: Some causes of back pain, such as ankylosing spondylitis , have a genetic component.

    Smoking: It can restrict blood flow and oxygen to the discs, causing them to degenerate faster.

    Backpack overload in children: A backpack overloaded with schoolbooks and supplies can strain the back and cause muscle fatigue.

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