Prevention Of Back Pain
You may be able to prevent back pain from overuse or improper body mechanics. The following recommendations can help you have a healthy back and lifestyle:
- Perform regular exercise that keeps your back muscles strong. Exercises that increase balance and strength can decrease your risk of falling and injuring your back or breaking bones. Exercises such as tai chi and yoga or any weight-bearing exercise that challenges your balance are good ones to try. Remember to warm up before exercise or other physical activities.
- Eat a healthy diet that includes enough calcium and vitamin D, nutrients that keep your spine strong.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight can put unnecessary and injury-causing stress and strain on your back.
- Practice good posture and avoid slouching. Try to remember to support your back when sitting or standing.
- Avoid lifting heavy items whenever possible. If you do lift a heavy item, use your leg and abdominal muscles instead of your back.
Other Causes Of Back Pain
There are many other potential causes of back pain, but most are rare. Be sure to see a doctor if you experience regular back pain that does not go away.
After ruling out the more common causes of back pain, your doctor will perform tests to determine if you have a rarer cause. These can :
- one of the vertebrae moving out of place and onto a nearby vertebra, called degenerative spondylolisthesis
- loss of nerve function at the lower spinal cord, called cauda equina syndrome
- fungal or bacterial infection of the spine, such as Staphylococcus, E. coli, or tuberculosis
Back pain can have many symptoms, including:
- a dull, aching sensation in the lower back
- a stabbing or shooting pain that can radiate down the leg to the foot
- an inability to stand up straight without pain
- a decreased range of motion and reduced ability to flex the back
The symptoms of back pain, if due to strain or misuse, are usually short lived but can last for days or weeks.
Back pain is chronic when symptoms have been present for 3 months.
When Should I See My Healthcare Provider About Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain usually gets better with rest and pain relievers. Back pain that doesnt go away may be a sign of a more serious condition.
See your provider if you have:
- Pain that doesnt get better after about a week of at-home care.
- Tingling, numbness, weakness or pain in your buttocks or legs.
- Severe pain or muscle spasms that interfere with your normal activities.
- Fever, weight loss, bowel or bladder problems or other unexplained symptoms.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Millions of people live with low back pain. Stiffness, pain and limited movement can have a major impact on quality of life. But you may be able to avoid lower back pain by maintaining a healthy weight and staying active. Talk to your provider if back pain doesnt go away or if youre unable to do the activities you enjoy. Several treatments can relieve pain, help you move better and get more out of life.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/18/2021.
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Medical And Family History
Your doctor will ask questions about your medical and family history to help determine if an injury or underlying medical condition is the source for the back pain. Some questions your doctor may ask:
- Can you describe your pain?
- Where is the exact location of your back pain?
- When did the pain start and how long have you had the pain?
- What were you doing when you first noticed the pain?
- How severe or bad is the pain?
- What makes the pain worse or better?
Your doctor may ask you to rate your pain on a scale from 1 to 10 to gauge the severity of the pain and talk to you about your ability to perform activities of daily living.
When Can I Get Back To My Normal Activities
Talk to your healthcare provider about a timeline regarding when you can get back to daily activities. You may need to take time off work to rest, or you may be able to go as long as you follow your providers recommended treatments. Dont guess about when youll be ready confirm it with your provider.
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What Is The Outlook
Most of us will have a bout of nonspecific low back pain at some point in our lives. The severity can vary. However, it is difficult to quote exact figures as to outlook . This is partly because it is so common and many people with back pain do not consult a doctor. Roughly, it is thought that:
- Most nonspecific back pains ease and go quickly, usually within a few weeks.
- In about 4 in 10 cases, the pain has completely gone within four weeks.
- In about 7 in 10 cases the pain has completely gone within one year.
However, once the pain has eased or gone it is common to have further bouts of pain from time to time in the future. Also, it is common to have minor pains on and off for quite some time after an initial bad bout of pain. In a small number of cases the pain persists for several months or longer. This is called chronic back pain.
How Is Back Pain Diagnosed
Your doctor or healthcare clinician will:
- ask about your back pain, including:
- the potential causes or triggers
- the type of pain for example, burning or stabbing pain
- whether the pain radiates
- whether you have had back pain before
- things that make your pain worse
- things that make it better
Your doctor may refer you for some tests if they think there may be a more serious cause for your back pain.
However, in most cases of back pain, imaging is not useful and is not recommended. Unnecessary tests can be expensive, and some scans involve exposure to radiation that is better avoided if the results will not help with your treatment.
A thorough examination by your doctor will decide whether more investigations are appropriate or will be helpful in developing a treatment plan that is right for you. It is important to know that many investigations show changes to your spine that are likely to represent the normal passage of time, not damage to your spine.
For more information about questions to ask your doctor before you get any test, treatment or procedure, visit the Choosing Wisely Australia website.
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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.
Rub On Medicated Creams
Skin creams, salves, ointments, or patches may help when your back feels stiff, sore, and tense. Many of these products contain ingredients such as menthol, camphor, or lidocaine that can cool, heat, or numb the affected area.
Put on creams right where you hurt. Ask someone to apply it if you have trouble reaching the spot.
âIt’s not going to be a mainstay at providing significant relief, but it can calm things down,â Ray says.
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The Importance Of An Accurate Diagnosis
The physician will need to take a careful medical history and do a physical exam to look for certain red flags that indicate the need for an X-ray or other imaging test. In most cases, however, imaging such as X-ray, MRI , or CT scan is unnecessary.
There may also be certain clues in a patients medical history. Low back, nonradiating pain is commonly due to muscle strain and spasm. Pain that radiates into the buttock and down the leg may be due to , a condition in which a bulging disc presses on the sciatic nerve, which extends down the spinal column to its exit point in the pelvis and carries nerve fibers to the leg. This nerve compression causes pain in the lower back radiating through the buttocks and down one leg, which can go to below the knee, often combined with localized areas of numbness. In the most extreme cases, the patient experiences weakness in addition to numbness and pain, which suggests the need for quick evaluation.
A persistent shooting or tingling pain may suggest lumbar disc disease. A pain that comes and goes, reaching a peak and then quieting for a minute or two, only to reach a peak again, may suggest an altogether different cause of back pain, such as a kidney stone.
When tumor or infection are suspected, the doctor may order blood tests, including a CBC and sedimentation rate .
What Type Of Doctor Should I See For Back Pain
This depends on your condition or symptoms. If you have no obvious injury that would explain your pain, you may want to start by seeing a . This is a specialist in physical medicine who can diagnose back pain and determine whether nonsurgical treatments such as physical therapy may help. Depending on those findings, a physiatrist may also refer you to a , doctor or other type of back specialist, , for additional discussion.
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What Questions Should I Ask My Healthcare Provider About My Back Pain
See your provider and get treatment soon so that you dont have to suffer from back pain. Some of the questions you may want to ask them include:
- Whats causing my back pain?
- Is there a name for my type of back pain?
- Will my pain go away on its own?
- Whats my best treatment option?
- What can I do at home to help treat my pain?
- Do I need to see a specialist?
- Can I work/go about my usual activities?
- How can I prevent the back pain from coming back?
Find Activities That Make You Happy
Ongoing back pain can wreak havoc on your life, affecting your cherished relationships, finances, and your ability to get stuff done at work and at home. Finding activities that make you happy can help reduce some stress and may relieve some pain.
Some people find that even doing just 3 things that make them feel good each daysuch as enjoying a comforting cup of tea or coffee, calling an old friend, walking the dog, or receiving a longish 30-second hug from a loved onecan make pain more tolerable.
Even something as simple as laughter with a friend may stimulate feel-good endorphins.1, 2
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Getting Started With Active Physical Therapy
At TRIA Neck and Back Strengthening Program, formerly known as the Physicians Neck and Back Center , active physical therapy is at the center of our spinal strengthening programs for over 30 years.
At TRIA Neck and Back Strengthening Program, our doctors and rehabilitation specialists partner with you to design a program just for you. Long-term pain management and healing is more likely when the therapy is based on your situation and preferences. Our programs are not only based on your back pain levels, but also your mobility, current level of strength, your clinical testing results and evaluation outcomes.
The equipment youll use is highly specialized. You wont see this stuff at your local gym. Its engineered to target the exact areas back pain sufferers need to focus on. For many people, strength, endurance and mobility-promoting exercises help create a pain-free and healthy body. These exercises can also promote longevity.
Of course this also means your program might change as you progress. And it can be adapted to meet your immediate and future needs. It all depends on your progress and goals.
Want to learn more about TRIA Neck and Back Strengthening Program? Watch this short video.
What Should I Know About Back Pain
Back pain is a very common problem and will affect many of us at some point during our lives.
The good news is that in most cases it isnt a serious problem, and it might just be caused by a simple strain to a muscle or ligament.
As far as possible, its best to continue with your normal everyday activities as soon as you can and to keep moving.
Being active and exercising wont make your back pain worse, even if you have a bit of pain and discomfort at first. Staying active will help you get better. Taking painkillers can help you do this.
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Release Your Inner Endorphins
Endorphins are hormones made naturally in your body. What many people dont know is that endorphins may help block pain signals from registering in your brain. Endorphins also help alleviate anxiety, stress, and depression, which are all associated with chronic back pain and often make the pain worse.
What Structures Make Up The Back
The lower backwhere most back pain occursincludes the five vertebrae in the lumbar region, which supports much of the weight of the upper body. The spaces between the vertebrae are maintained by round, rubbery pads called intervertebral discs that act like shock absorbers throughout the spinal column to cushion the bones as the body moves. Bands of tissue known as ligaments hold the vertebrae in place, and tendons attach the muscles to the spinal column. Thirty-one pairs of nerves are rooted to the spinal cord and they control body movements and transmit signals from the body to the brain.
Other regions of vertebrate are cervical , thoracic , and sacral and coccygeal segments.
See When to Seek Medical Care for Low Back Pain
Despite the toll chronic pain takessurveys estimate that 11 to 40 percent of Americans are dealing with chronic pain1,2 chronic pain has not always been well understood. The medical profession used to believe that pain was always a manifestation of an underlying injury or disease. Doctors focused on treating the cause of the pain, with the belief that the chronic pain would disappear once the injury or disease was cured.
See Modern Theories of Chronic Pain
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Stretch #2 Prayer Stretch
Starting with prayer stretch is a great way to gauge your range of motion, pain sensation, and still get benefits of a stretch. It is important when dealing with low back pain to move slowly and purposefully to avoid positions and movements that reproduce symptoms dramatically.
For this exercise you will want to start out on your hands and knees with your eyes looking down at the floor. A straight line from your glutes to the top of your head for proper spinal alignment.
Once in that position, take a deep breath in through the nose and out through the mouth slowly releasing the air as you sit your hips back on your heels. The lower you can get the better, drop your chest and head down as you fully exhale and hold the position for 30 seconds.
This stretch targets the low back specifically but also helps get the pelvis into a more favorable position to stretch the back muscles entirely in a safe manner. Repeat this stretch and attempt to get lower each time until your hips can comfortably sit on your heels. This is a great stretch to start or end the day.
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 .
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What Can I Do About Acute Back Or Neck Pain
The key to recovering from acute back or neck pain is restricting your activity and taking over the counter medications, because most back pain is related to muscle strain. In most cases, acute back pain will go away on its own over a period of days. Here are some tips that will help you recover:
1. Take it easy If you think you’ve hurt your back, ease up on the pressure you’re putting on your back. Many people actually have little choice in the mattertheir back pain will force them to drop to their knees or “freeze” in a bent-over position. Others will be able to function somewhat normally, but with uncomfortable pain. Contrary to popular belief, studies on acute back pain actually show that a few days of restricting your activity, and taking the appropriate over-the-counter medication, is all that many people really need to allow the strained muscles to relax and unbind. However, it is important to talk with your health care provider before taking any medication, especially if you are taking other medications or have a chronic medical condition.
2. Ice, then heat Remember this rule: “Ice first for 48 hours, then heat.” Ice and heat can alleviate local pain that comes from muscle and ligament strain. Ice slows swelling and inflammation and acts as a local anesthetic, but after 48 hours, it loses its effect. Using heat afterwards increases blood flow to the deep tissues and relaxes muscle spasms.