What Is Back Pain
Pain in your back can be an annoying ache, or it can get so bad that its unbearable. Back pain is the second most common reason why people visit their healthcare providers . Many people miss work because of it. Around 80% to 90% of people in the United States will have back pain at some point in their lives.
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.
Look Into Getting A New Mattress
How old is your bed? You may be surprised to learn that the average life span of a mattress is less than 10 years. Theres no hard-and-fast rule, says Sean Mackey, MD, PhD, chief of the division of pain medicine at Stanford University, but if your mattress is sagging significantly or is more than six to eight years old, Id think about getting a new one.
Something else to consider: A firm mattress may not do your back any favors, says Carmen R. Green, MD, a physician at the University of Michigan Back & Pain Center. A number of studies over the years suggest that people with lower back pain who sleep on medium-firm mattresses do better than those with firm beds, she says.
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About Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain is pain in the area of your back from the bottom of your ribs to the top of your legs. It can come from any of the many structures that make up your back. These include bones, joints, muscles, ligaments, nerves and tendons.
Your spine supports your back. Its made up of 24 separate bones called vertebrae stacked on top of one another. The lower section of your spine is called the lumbar spine. Below the vertebrae, at the bottom of your spine, are bones called your sacrum and coccyx. You may hear lower back pain referred to as lumbosacral pain.
Discs of cartilage sit between each vertebra, acting as shock absorbers and allowing your spine to bend. Some lower back pain originates from these discs. Your spinal cord threads through the vertebrae, carrying nerve signals between your brain and the rest of your body. If nerves at the base of your spine become compressed or inflamed, it can cause sciatica. Sciatica is a type of pain that starts in your back or buttocks and spreads down your leg.
Its usually difficult for doctors to say exactly whats causing back pain. This is because there are so many different parts to your back and tissues that surround it. Even tests such as X-rays and magnetic resonance imaging scans arent helpful for most people.
What Are The Types Of Back Pain
Back pain is categorized in a number of ways by medical professionals. You can describe your back pain by its location: upper, middle or lower back pain thats on the left side, center or right side. You may also define different types of pain to your healthcare provider. Is your pain mild, moderate or severe? Is the pain a broad ache or a smaller sharp stab? Also, back pain can be categorized by how long it lasts. An acute episode is one that is sudden and brief, and often related to an injury. Chronic/persistent means your back pain has lasted more than three to six months.
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Ice Your Back Immediately After Exercise To Reduce Muscle Soreness
Muscle soreness and back pain can occur from extensive workouts, trying a new type of work out, or even from excessive walking. Soreness from these activities may start on the first day but typically continues to peak until the third day.4 This phenomenon is called delayed onset muscle soreness and can cause significant inflammation and pain in your back.
When you have back pain from exercise or exertion, use cold therapy immediately after the activity to reduce tissue damage, inflammation, and pain. After a 24-hour period, use heat therapy to encourage tissue healing.4
What Questions Might A Healthcare Provider Ask To Help Diagnose Back Pain
Your healthcare provider will ask if you injured yourself, how long youve had back pain and how severe your pain is. They need to know other medical problems you have and what medications you take. If you have family members who have had similar issues, let your provider know. They might also ask questions such as:
- Are you able to work every day?
- Does what you do for a living involve lifting?
- Do any of your hobbies aggravate your back pain?
- Do you have any other symptoms?
- Where is your pain located?
- How does the pain affect your daily activities?
- What at-home treatments have you tried?
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Lazarus Naturals Soothing Mint Full Spectrum Cbd Balm
The Lazarus Naturals Soothing Mint Full Spectrum CBD Balm is a topical lotion that includes CBD and other natural ingredients, such as peppermint, mango butter, and beeswax.
The company claims that 1/2 a teaspoon of their product contains 50 milligrams of CBD for topical use.
Lazarus Natural states that the lotion will help to soothe aches and help moisturize the skin.
What Is Lower Back Pain
Low back pain can result from many different injuries, conditions or diseases most often, an injury to muscles or tendons in the back.
Pain can range from mild to severe. In some cases, pain can make it difficult or impossible to walk, sleep, work or do everyday activities.
Usually, lower back pain gets better with rest, pain relievers and physical therapy . Cortisone injections and hands-on treatments can relieve pain and help the healing process. Some back injuries and conditions require surgical repair.
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What You Need To Know About Your Back
Your spine is made up of stacked bones called vertebrae. They are arranged in 3 natural curves:
- cervical the curve inward at your neck
- thoracic the curve outward in the middle
- lumbar the curve inward in your lower back.
Strong, flexible muscles and ligaments help maintain these curves. Soft cushions called discs act as shock absorbers between the bones. Nerves run through the holes in the vertebrae and branch out to your body.
How Useful Is Imaging
Abnormalities in x ray and magnetic resonance imaging and the occurrence of non-specific low back pain seem not to be strongly associated.10w6 Abnormalities found when imaging people without back pain are just as prevalent as those found in patients with back pain. Van Tulder and Roland reported radiological abnormalities varying from 40% to 50% for degeneration and spondylosis in people without low back pain. They said that radiologists should include this epidemiological data when reporting the findings of a radiological investigation.11 Many people with low back pain show no abnormalities. In clinical guidelines these findings have led to the recommendation to be restrictive in referral for imaging in patients with non-specific low back pain. Only in cases with red flag conditions might imaging be indicated. Jarvik et al showed that computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging are equally accurate for diagnosing lumbar disc herniation and stenosisboth conditions that can easily be separated from non-specific low back pain by the appearance of red flags. Magnetic resonance imaging is probably more accurate than other types of imaging for diagnosing infections and malignancies,12 but the prevalence of these specific pathologies is low.
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One Back Pain Treatment You Probably Dont Need
Back pain can be incredibly frustrating, and going under the knife may seem like the quickest, easiest fix to bring relief. But the truth is, many people dont need surgery for lower back pain management, Dr. Park says.
If your back pain is musculoskeletal, you will not require surgery, but if its a pinched nerve thats due to a disc herniation or something else, you may need to have surgery, he says. But even in those people, when you go through a six-to-eight-week course of treatment that includes physical therapy and activity modification, 85 to 90 percent of the time, they wont need surgery.
However, if you try the treatments above and dont see any improvement or still feel pain, talk to your doctor about a referral to a pain management specialist, as more specific tests or treatments may be required to get to the bottom of whats going on.
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Check If It’s A Slipped Disc
A slipped disc can cause:
- lower back pain
- numbness or tingling in your shoulders, back, arms, hands, legs or feet
- neck pain
- problems bending or straightening your back
- muscle weakness
- pain in the buttocks, hips or legs if the disc is pressing on the sciatic nerve
Not all slipped discs cause symptoms. Many people will never know they have slipped a disc.
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Ways To Manage Low Back Pain At Home
Back pain is one of the most common physical ailments. Studies show that eight in 10 Americans have back pain at some point in their lives, usually in the lower back.
Sudden or severe back pain should be checked by a doctor or a physical therapist. That also goes for pain that wonât go away.
But sometimes you can treat nagging pain and discomfort on your own.
Wilson Ray, MD, chief of spine surgery for the Department of Neurological Surgery at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, says home remedies â tend to be better when they’re combined than alone.â
Symptoms Of Lower Back Pain
The symptoms of lower back pain can vary from person to person. It may come on suddenly, perhaps after youve lifted something heavy or moved in a way thats hurt your back. Or it may come on gradually over time or for no clear reason. Some people get a dull pain in their back, while others describe it as more of a tearing or burning pain. You may find certain things make the pain worse, and other things help to relieve it. The pain can range from mild to severe.
If you have sciatica, pain can spread from your back or buttock down your leg, sometimes as far as your foot or toes.
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Try Acupuncture To Relieve Chronic Pain
Several studies have found acupuncture to be effective at relieving chronic back pain. Acupuncture is a practice that comes from traditional Chinese medicine. According to ancient Chinese wisdom, your life force or Qi flows through your body along pathways known as meridians, and an imbalance or blockage in this flow of energy causes disease. Acupuncture aims to correct imbalances in this energy by stimulating specific body points by inserting fine needles. Several meridians like the bladder, kidney, gallbladder, and liver affect your back and your acupuncturist will select appropriate body points for treating your back pain.1314 Make sure you go to a credible and experienced acupuncturist for treatment.
Common Causes Of Chronic Back Pain
Chronic back painis usually age-related, but can also result from a prior injury. The mostcommon causes include:
- Arthritis of the spinethe gradual thinning of the cartilage inside the spine
- Spinal stenosisnarrowing of the spinal canal that may lead to nerve pain
- Disc problems, such as a herniated or bulging disc
- Myofascial pain syndromeunexplained muscle pain and tenderness
In some cases, its difficult to pinpoint the cause of chronic back pain.If your doctor has exhausted all diagnostic options, its time to seek asecond opinion from a back pain specialist, recommends Nava. Itsimportant not to make rushed decisions or undergo extensive medicalprocedures until the origin of the pain is found. Not only may they nothelp they could make the pain worse, warns Nava.
If the source of the pain is not known or cant be treated, your bestoption may be to work with your doctor on reducing the flare-ups and makingthe pain manageable with nonsurgical treatments.
Back Pain Causes and Treatments Webinar | Stephanie Van, M.D.
Chronic back pain is a persistent source of discomfort for many adults. In this webinar, our expert Stephanie Van, M.D., discusses common causes of back pain along with strategies for relief.
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How To Make A Homemade Heating Pad
If you dont have a heating pad, you can make your own using items already in your house.
For this to work, you need an old cotton sock, regular rice, and a sewing machine, or a needle and thread.
Fill the old sock with rice, leaving just enough space at the top of the sock to sew the ends together. Next, put the sock in the microwave for about 3 to 5 minutes.
Once the microwave stops, carefully remove the sock and apply it to your back. If the sock is too hot, let it cool or wrap it in a cloth before using.
You can also use the rice sock as a cold pack. Just put it in the freezer before applying to acute injuries.
How Is Back Pain Evaluated And Diagnosed
In many cases, your healthcare provider may get all the information they need from interviewing you about your symptoms, health history and lifestyle and then doing an exam. However, sometimes image tests are necessary. These may include:
- A medical spine provider who specializes in back pain.
- An orthopaedic provider who specializes in bones and joints.
Your healthcare provider may also recommend a therapist or psychiatrist if youre struggling to cope with your pain.
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Can I Prevent Lower Back Pain
You cant prevent lower back pain that results from disease or structural problems in the spine. But you can avoid injuries that cause back pain.
To reduce your risk of a back injury, you should:
- Maintain a healthy weight: Excess weight puts pressure on vertebrae and disks.
- Strengthen your abdominal muscles: Pilates and other exercise programs strengthen core muscles that support the spine.
- Lift the right way: To avoid injuries, lift with your legs . Hold heavy items close to your body. Try not to twist your torso while youre lifting.
Improve Your Posture To Reduce Back Pain
Most of us spend a good part of our day sitting down, which may be more harmful than you realize. You can minimize the impact by maintaining good posture. Correct posture in a chair means having all the bones in your spine lined up neatly, like a stack of perfectly aligned blocks. You should keep your feet flat on the floor and your computer keyboard within easy reach so youre not leaning forward or slumping. This is part of proper office ergonomics.
Many apps and devices exist that can help you enhance your posture. If you work at a computer all day, try the software and app Posture Man Pat. This free app interacts with the webcam on your screen, tracking where your face is relative to your screen. If your posture starts to droop and curve, the app will alert you.
If you are looking to get really tech-savvy, try the Lumo Lift Posture Coach. This wearable device has a sensor that will vibrate when you change your posture from what the posture coach is calibrated to.
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Back Pain And Pregnancy
Back pain during each trimester of your pregnancy can be common, and several causes are to blame. However, you should be sure to talk with your doctor about what youre experiencing, in case the pain may be part of a bigger problem.
Here are a few reasons why you may be experiencing back pain during pregnancy:
Shifting center of gravity
As your baby grows, the center of your bodys gravity moves outward. Your spine and back arch to make up for the change in balance. This put extra stress on the lower lumbar spine.
Weight gain can be a healthy part of pregnancy, but even the little bit youre likely to gain during those 9 months can put more stress on your back and core muscles.
As your body prepares to deliver the baby, it releases hormones that loosen the ligaments that stabilize your pelvis and lumbar spine. These same hormones can cause the bones in your spine to shift, which may lead to discomfort and pain.