Back pain is one of the leading reasons for doctor visits and lost days from work. Each year, nearly $1 billion dollars are spent on treating back pain, lost wages, litigation, and disability in this country.
Back pain will typically affect 4 out of 5 people during their lifetimes, and is the leading cause of work related disability in the U.S. Fortunately, instances of back pain are often self-limiting and resolve on their own without the need for surgery. Conservative treatment should almost always be tried when back pain doesn’t resolve within a week or two.
Causes of back pain range from soft tissue injury, such as pulled muscles, to injuries to the deeper structures that comprise the actual skeleton and its supportive structures, such as disc herniations.
The cause must be identified if proper treatment is to be provided, as the treatment is obviously dependent on the cause.
Here are some of the most common causes of back pain:
Most instances of back pain gradually improve with home treatment and self-care. Although it may take several weeks before it completely resolves, you should notice some improvement within the first 72 hours of self-care. If not, see your doctor.
In rare cases, back pain can signal a serious medical problem. See a doctor immediately if your back pain:
When a patient presents to a physician with back pain, a careful history of the pain should be taken, in which precipitating causes, and other important factors are evaluated. Other medical conditions that the patient may have should also be considered when back pain is the symptom. In addition, a physical examination should be performed, as well as a review of any diagnostic tests the patient may have already undergone. All of the above is taken into consideration in order to make the correct diagnosis, and formulate an appropriate treatment plan.
Often times, a physician may for many reasons, order one or more diagnostic tests:
Most cases of back pain get better with a few weeks of home treatment and careful attention. A short course of anti-inflammatory and hot or cold therapy may be all that you need to improve your pain. A short period of bed rest is okay, but more than a couple of days actually does more harm than good. If home treatments aren't working, your doctor may suggest stronger medications or other therapy.
Medications and Therapies
Treating Chronic Back Pain
Treatment for chronic back pain may also include using:
Surgical and Other Procedures
Few people ever need surgery for back pain. There are no effective surgical techniques for muscle- and soft-tissue-related back pain. Surgery is usually reserved for pain caused by a herniated disk. If you have unrelenting pain or progressive muscle weakness caused by nerve compression, you may benefit from surgery. Types of back surgery include:
You may be able to avoid back pain by improving your physical condition and learning and practicing proper body mechanics.
To keep your back healthy and strong:
Use proper body mechanics: