Back pain is one of the most common reasons people go to the doctor. Home treatment and proper body mechanics often will heal your back. Millions of Americans have ongoing back pain. It's the leading cause of disability in people younger than 45, and many things can cause it. Lower back pain is a common cause for visits to the doctor. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).
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Frequent causes of back pain are:. The following factors are linked to a higher risk of developing low back pain:. Lower back pain also tends to be more common in women than in men, possibly due to hormonal factors. Stress , anxiety , and mood disorders have also been linked to back pain. The main symptom of back pain is an ache or pain anywhere in the back, and sometimes all the way down to the buttocks and legs.
The pain often goes away without treatment, but if it occurs with any of the following people should see their doctor:. You should seek medical help if you experience any numbness or tingling, or if you have back pain:. A doctor will usually be able to diagnose back pain after asking about symptoms and carrying out a physical examination. Back pain is categorized into two types:. 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. Applying a hot compress or an ice pack to the painful area may also reduce pain. Resting from strenuous activity can help, but moving around will ease stiffness, reduce pain, and prevent muscles from weakening. If home treatments do not relieve back pain, a doctor may recommend the following medication, physical therapy , or both.
Codeine or hydrocodone, which are narcotics, may be prescribed for short periods. These require close monitoring by the doctor. In some cases, muscle relaxants may be used. Antidepressants , such as amitriptyline , may be prescribed, but research is ongoing at to their effectiveness, and the evidence is conflicting.
Applying heat, ice, ultrasound , and electrical stimulation — as well as some muscle-release techniques to the back muscles and soft tissues — may help alleviate pain. As the pain improves, the physical therapist may introduce some flexibility and strength exercises for the back and abdominal muscles.
Techniques for improving posture may also help. The patient will be encouraged to practice the techniques regularly, even after the pain has gone, to prevent back pain recurrence.
If other options are not effective, these may be injected into the epidural space, around the spinal cord. Cortisone is an anti-inflammatory drug. It helps reduce inflammation around the nerve roots. Injections may also be used to numb areas thought to be causing the pain. Botox botulism toxin , according to some early studies, are thought to reduce pain by paralyzing sprained muscles in spasm.
These injections are effective for about 3 to 4 months. Pulleys and weights are used to stretch the back. This may result in a herniated disk moving back into position.
It can also relieve pain, but only while traction is applied. Cognitive behavioral therapy CBT: CBT can help manage chronic back pain by encouraging new ways of thinking. It may include relaxation techniques and ways of maintaining a positive attitude. Studies have found that patients with CBT tend to become more active and do exercise, resulting in a lower risk of back pain recurrence. Chiropractic, osteopathy, shiatsu, and acupuncture may help relieve back pain, as well as encouraging the patient to feel relaxed.
Studies on complementary therapies have given mixed results. Some people have experienced significant benefit, while others have not. It is important, when considering alternative therapies, to use a well qualified and registered therapist.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation TENS is a popular therapy for patients with chronic back pain. The TENS machine delivers small electric pulses into the body through electrodes that are placed on the skin. Experts believe TENS encourages the body to produce endorphins and may block pain signals returning to the brain.
Studies on TENS have provided mixed results. Some revealed no benefits, while others indicated that it could be helpful for some people. TENS is considered "safe, noninvasive, inexpensive, and patient friendly," and it appears to reduce pain, but more evidence is needed to confirm its effectiveness in improving activity levels.
TENS machines and other pain relief methods can be purchased online. Surgery for back pain is very rare. If a patient has a herniated disk surgery may be an option, especially if there is persistent pain and nerve compression which can lead to muscle weakness. Injecting cells to regenerate spine discs: Scientists from Duke University, North Carolina, developed new biomaterials that can deliver a booster shot of reparative cells to the nucleus pulposus, effectively eliminating pain caused by degenerative disc disease.
However, it may be caused by another condition and you should consider seeing your doctor if you think the following might apply to you:. Most cases of back pain, however, are not caused by disease or serious damage but by sprains, minor strains, minor injuries or a pinched or irritated nerve.
Pain can also develop over time as a result of sitting, standing or lifting badly. Common triggers that can cause back pain include:. Sometimes the pain develops suddenly and for no apparent reason. A person can wake up with back pain and have no idea what has caused it.
You should also see your doctor urgently or go to the emergency department if you lose control of your bladder or bowels. Most Australian adults will experience low back pain at some time in their lives.
Most uncomplicated low back pain resolves after a period of active recovery and people are generally back to normal wi.
Read more on myDr website. Read more on Choosing Wisely Australia website. A significant loss of wellbeing and a reduced quality of life affects those experiencing persistent low back pain. Read more on WA Health website. Is treatment involving a team of therapists from several different clinical professions helpful for people with long-term back pain? Read more on Cochrane Australasian Centre website. This article tells consumers about acute low back pain and how it is diagnosed, including what imaging tests they may need to have.
Read more on Diagnostic Imaging Pathways website. Lower back pain is the most common type of back pain or backache. Simple pain relief or treatment includes a back rub and pain killers. Learn about low back pain as a musculoskeletal pain condition to identify how you can approach low back pain in your co-management treatment plan. Read more on SA Health website. Lower back pain occurs in the area known as the lumbar spine.
It may be acute or chronic depending on whether it persists for longer than three months. But there's no definitive evidence that special shoes, shoe inserts, back supports, specially designed furniture or stress management programs can help.
In addition, there doesn't appear to be one type of mattress that's best for people with back pain. It's probably a matter of what feels most comfortable to you. Our patients tell us that the quality of their interactions, our attention to detail and the efficiency of their visits mean health care like they've never experienced.
See the stories of satisfied Mayo Clinic patients. After years of chronic back pain, Guy Gottschalk was not optimistic that he would ever find relief. But a visit to Mayo Clinic not only significantly reduced his pain, it gave him the motivation to make important lifestyle changes that dramatically improved his health.
When he had his first appointment in Mayo Clinic's Division of [ Mayo Clinic does not endorse companies or products. Advertising revenue supports our not-for-profit mission. This content does not have an English version. This content does not have an Arabic version. Overview Back pain is one of the most common reasons people go to the doctor or miss work, and it is a leading cause of disability worldwide. Request an Appointment at Mayo Clinic.
Accessed June 25, Low back pain fact sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Subacute and chronic low back pain:
What causes back pain?
There are multiple potential causes for back pain. Here are some of the more common causes, although this is not an exhaustive list. Find out about the causes of back pain, including some of the medical conditions that can cause it. There are equally as many treatments for back pain, including Back pain is a common reason for absence from work and for seeking medical.