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What Do You Do If You Have Back Pain

Chronic Or Acute Pain

Do you have back pain and problems?
  • Acute pain starts suddenly and lasts for up to 6 weeks.
  • Chronic or long-term pain develops over a longer period, lasts for over 3 months, and causes ongoing problems.

If a person has both occasional bouts of more intense pain and fairly continuous mild back pain, it can be hard for a doctor to determine whether they have acute or chronic back pain.

Back pain usually resolves with rest and home remedies, but sometimes medical treatment is necessary.

Change Up Your Sleep Position Or Mattress

Switching to a more supportive sleep position can reduce lower back pain. Also consider how you can use pillows or invest in a new mattress to support better spinal alignment and relieve lower back pain.

Research suggests medium firm mattresses are the best mattresses for back pain. In one study of people with low back pain, those who slept on medium firm mattresses reported lower pain scores both during sleep and upon getting up in the morning.

You Have Unexplained Weight Loss

If you experience sudden weight loss that can’t be explained by diet and lifestyle changes, then you should always pay attention to what your body is telling you. This is especially true when the unexplained weight loss is accompanied by back pain. See your doctor to rule out the possibility of a more severe condition, such as an infection or tumor.

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Inhale Slowly And Deeply For A Count Of 5 Seconds Pause 1 Second And Exhale 3

Visualization will help by imagining a tight knot being unraveled as you inhale. Picture the muscles extending as you inhale to stretch your rib cage fully.

As the muscles are contracting intensely, they are also over contracting, making it counter-productive.

Since you have already stopped moving, you are now trying to shut off the muscles need also to do this. Breathing deeply is key to relaxing a muscle which is becoming progressively shorter and more painful.

As you try to relax, avoid any movements that allow the muscle to shorten

Because of the intensity, duration and source of the injury, it is natural to react and to contract your body further. Even unwillingly.

To avoid this, focus on slowly inhaling while at the same time minimizing your movements. When in contraction, the reduced circulation and the build up of lactic acid makes you feel much worse.

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These approaches wont cure your condition, but they may help you manage the discomfort and prevent additional injury.

Also see a doctor if the pain is constant, wakes you up at night, and includes leg pain or follows an injury.For less-serious back pain symptoms, the best way to keep them at bay is to stay active, Dreisinger says. The natural response to pain is to do less, but the opposite holds true with back pain symptoms, he says. Thats because exercise helps muscles relax and increases blood flow to the area.Heres expert advice on what might work and wont for your back pain symptoms.1. Dont just lie there.Its tempting to rest until pain subsides, but taking to bed for more than a day or two may make your back pain symptoms worse, according to the National Institutes of Health .

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How Can I Prevent Low Back Pain

You can prevent low back pain with physical therapy, exercises, and stretching. Supports and back belts do not prevent low back pain.

Keep in shape, lose weight if you are overweight, and exercise regularly. Being inactive can lead to low back pain. Regular exercise like walking, swimming, or biking is good for your back. These activities put less stress on your back than sitting and standing.

Don’t lift heavy objects by bending over at the waist. Bend your hips and knees and then squat to pick up the object. Keep your back straight and hold the object close to your body. Don’t twist your body while you are lifting.

If you have to sit at your desk or drive for a long time, take breaks to stretch.

Why Is Lower Back Pain Such A Common Problem

The bottom part of your back typically has just five vertebrae fewer than your neck and mid-back. And these vertebrae do a lot of heavy lifting! Your lower back is where your spine connects to your pelvis, bearing the weight of your upper body. This area experiences a lot of movement and stress, which may lead to wear, tear and injuries.

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Ready To Address Your Back Pain

The University of Maryland Spine Network can help you put your pain behind you. With convenient locations throughout the state, the UM Spine Network is home to the region’s leading spine surgeons and specialists that can help you identify the source of your pain and put an end to it for good.

Put an end to your back pain. near you.

In This Section:

Stop Your Activity And Find Immediate Rest

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This may already make sense, but many of us prefer to keep moving. Some professionals actually recommend that you stay in motion, but if you are the unfortunate one to have a disc or nerve problem, then that is poor advice. You may end up visiting them for that instead.

Dont try to actively work or move until you know the source of the injury.

A very common reaction is to keep moving but MAY be dangerous. Although this might feel helpful, it is important to determine whether your pain is more than just muscular in nature.

Why you should NOT move:

Moving when you have any of these injuries can cause further injury, intensifying the pain.

If you have a history of ANY of these injuries or suspect that your lifestyle may contribute to it , then rest is a better than simply muscling through it with medication.

Lastly with this first tip, you should know that you should also apply this caution to not just your back but also to your hips, knees and neck.

Forcing yourself to move when these areas are injured can be very risky. Make sure that you arent adding to the pain. The wrong movement can set you behind.

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How Your Back Works

The spine, which is also called the backbone or spinal column, is one of the strongest parts of the body and gives us a great deal of flexibility and strength.

Its made up of 24 bones, known as vertebrae, one sitting on top of the other. These bones have discs in between and lots of strong ligaments and muscles around them for support. There are also the bones in the tailbone at the bottom of the back, which are fused together and have no discs in between.

On either side of the spine, running from top to bottom, are many small joints called the facet joints.

The spinal cord passes inside the vertebrae, which protect it.

The spinal cord connects to the brain through the base of the skull and to the rest of the body by nerves that pass through spaces between the bones of the spine. These nerves are also known as nerve roots.

As you grow older, the structures of your spine, such as the joints, discs and ligaments, age as well. The structures remain strong but its usual for your back to get stiffer as you get older.

Hot And Cold Treatments

Many people have found that hot and cold treatments help relieve back pain. You might try both to find out which works better for you. Heat relaxes muscles and soothes painful areas. There are many ways to apply heat. Some people like hot showers or baths, while others prefer using heat lamps, heating pads or warm compresses. If you have arthritis, heating your muscles first might make it easier for you to do back exercises. Be sure not to fall asleep while using heat. Cold has a numbing effect. This often helps relieve pain. You might try one of these methods for applying cold:

  • an ice bag
  • a large ice cube used to massage the area
  • a frozen package of vegetables
  • a commercially made cold pack.
  • Be sure not to leave ice on after the skin becomes numb. This could lead to localized frostbite. Do not use cold if you are especially sensitive to it or
  • have decreased circulation or sensation. Read the pain management article for more information about heat and cold.

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Do Pay Attention To Your Posture

Your mothers advice to stop slouching was spot on! Too many people spend hours slumped over a keyboard, slouching on the sofa looking at television or slumped over looking down at our cell phones.

Put your back against the backrest of your chair and sit up straight. Your back will thank you for it! If you arent sure what proper posture should be, speak with your chiropractor.

Possible Conditions Causing Severe Back Pain

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Dr. Drymalski also details several conditions that can cause intense back pain, many of which center on the bones or discs. But you also might be wondering, How do I know if my back pain is kidney-related? Problems with what other organs can cause lower back pain?

He shares a wide-ranging list of potential conditions that can bring about extreme back pain:

Although that list of possible conditions may seem daunting, the important thing to do is to focus on your symptoms and how youre feeling. Also, be sure to consider any symptoms that youre experiencing beyond back pain.

Pay attention to severe back pain and other symptoms that appear with it.

Pay attention to the other symptoms in addition to your back pain, especially your bowel/bladder function and leg function, Dr. Drymalski says.

He adds that if you demonstrate any of the above red flag symptoms, if your pain persists and does not appear to be related to movement, or if you have a history of cancer, recent IV drug use, or a vascular disease, you may be at increased risk for serious back conditions.

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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.

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.

References

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Arthritis Of The Spine

Arthritis of the spine the slow degeneration of the spinal joints is the most frequent cause of lower back pain. All of us experience wear and tear as we age, and it is normal for your lower back to start acting up as you get older. As the cartilage breaks down between the spinal joints, surrounding tissues may become inflamed. The inflammation and the thinning of cartilage increase friction in the joints, which may cause pain in the lower back.

Treatments For Back Pain

What is Chronic Back Pain and What Do You Do If You Have It?

More than 85 percent of people with lower back pain improve with minimal treatment in a matter of days. However, if back problems persist, doctors generally prescribe one or more of the following treatments: proper exercise, rest, heat and cold, posture training, weight loss, stress management and relaxation exercises, medication, spinal manipulation and/or surgery. For some back conditions, the doctor may refer you to another specialist such as an orthopedist, rheumatologist, physiatrist, physical or occupational therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist or surgeon.

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Answers To Common Back Pain Questions

More than eight in 10 people will experience upper, mid, or low back pain at some point in their lives. Low back pain is the most common back pain. In most cases, the pain goes away over time. If your back pain is severe or does not improve, you may need medical care. Here are answers to some common questions about back pain and tips on when to seek help.

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.

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Maintain Correct Posture During Activities

To protect your lower back from injury, its important to maintain proper posture when performing physical activitiesespecially if you play sports or have a job that requires repetitive motions. Avoid slouching as much as possible and aim to keep your spine erect. When lifting, bend and straighten from the knees, not the waist. And be sure to move your hips when twisting from side to side.

What To Do If You Have A Bulging Disc In Your Lower Back

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by Dr. Don DuffAug 8, 2018

Bulging discs in the lower back are a common cause of back pain. By definition, this condition is a weakening of the outer lining of the disc that allows the inner layers to push out and bulge the outer rim of the disc. There are varying levels of severityfor instance, a herniated disc is when the nucleus of the disc is actually protruding. The more severe the case, the more advanced treatment youll need. But most bulging disc pain can be treated with natural remedies, in many cases giving the abnormal disc the time it needs to repair itself.

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Carefully Move To A Bed Or Comfortable Flat Surface To Remain Temporarilyimmobile

That spasm that you have is a nasty but very clear warning sign that you must not continue to move. Your body is literally locking up to guard you against injuring another part of your back that is weakened or injured.

Although this locked up muscle may hurt as it tightens, it is not usually the source of the injury.

By laying down, you can help to stop triggering these muscles and can reduce the intensity and duration of the pain.

You can lie on the floor using cushions and pillows as a support and just be patient. Its better for you to focus on being somewhere calm so you can make yourself the priority.

Remember though that this is only a temporary measure as prolonged immobility could make things worse.

Did your contraction happen while reaching for, or lifting something? Did it happen just out of the blue and during a very simple activity? If so, you should follow this One Simple Rule to help reduce your chances of back spasms.

Take Action: Prevent Injuries

Good posture can help prevent back pain.

  • Try not to slouch when standing and sitting
  • Sit up straight with your back against the back of your chair and your feet flat on the floor if possible, keep your knees slightly higher than your hips
  • Stand tall with your head up and shoulders back
  • If you can, switch between standing and sitting so youre not in the same position for too long
  • Find out how to have good posture while sitting at a computer

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