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Find Relief for Back Pain

According to the American College of Rheumatology, nearly 4 in 5 people in the world have back pain at some point in their life. Fortunately, you can take steps to keep your back healthy and keep back pain away.

A car accident, a sports injury, and lifting a heavy object are obvious causes of back pain. But lifestyle factors can cause back pain, too. Obesity with excess belly (abdominal) fat may strain the lower back. Lack of exercise, poor posture, and sitting for long periods of time can also weaken and stress back muscles. Back pain can also occur due to the gradual changes linked to aging.

Getting better

Back pain can feel sharp, aching, dull, tingling, or burning. It can occur only in your back, or can travel down one or both of your legs. The pain comes from damaged muscles, ligaments, and nerves, or from the spine.

Sudden (acute) back pain will often go away on its own in 1 to 6 weeks. It may be hard, but it’s better to move about than stay in bed. Just be sure to take it easy. Taking an over-the-counter pain reliever and applying ice or hot packs can ease pain and stiffness. These things can also help chronic back pain (pain that lasts longer than 3 months). Surgery is rarely needed for chronic back problems. Some people find relief with massage or chiropractic treatment. Chiropractic or manipulation therapy is provided in many different forms. Physical therapy can recommend and supervise exercise programs as well as apply modalities, such as ultrasound, heat, and massage. Some people find relief from acupuncture or other alternative therapies. Check with your health insurance plan to see if these services are covered.

Preventing pain

You may have chronic back pain or frequent bouts of acute back pain, without an underlying health condition that’s causing it. In that case, lifestyle habits may be the problem. Follow these steps for a healthier back:

  • Lift things safely. Bend your legs and keep your back straight.

  • Do aerobic exercise, stretch, and strength-train regularly.

  • Improve your posture. Don’t slouch or sit in 1 position for too long without a break.

  • Manage your weight through exercise and a healthy diet.

  • Find time to relax. Stress can make back problems worse.

Always talk with your healthcare provider before starting a new physical activity.

Medical Reviewers:

  • Joseph Campellone MD
  • Marianne Fraser MSN RN
  • Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN