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The Complete Back Ache Treatment Page!The complete backacke treatment page!

Oh my aching back! Severe back pain is  the second most common reason for a visit to the doctor's office (after colds and the flu).

What can you do to ease back pain (especially lower back pain) and get on with your life? What is your best back pain cure? Consult with your doctor to see which back pain treatment (including back exercises, NSAIDs, antidepressants, bed rest, lumbar supports, TENS, EMG biofeedback, acupuncture, traction and steroid injections) may help your particular medical circumstance. 

Remember that this site can only provide general advice on backacke, and you should consult your doctor for information specific to your condition.

What Causes Back Pain?

Pain felt in your lower back may come from the backbone, muscles, nerves, or other organs in that part of your body. It may also radiate from other areas like your mid or upper back, or be caused by a hernia, a problem in the testicles or a problem in the ovaries. Lower back pain is sometimes referred to as lumbago.

If you hurt your back you may feel a tingling or burning sensation, a sharp pain or a dull ache. You also may experience weakness in the legs or feet.

Often it isn't one single event that causes your back pain. You may have been doing many things improperly -- like standing, sitting, or lifting -- for a long time. Then suddenly, one simple thing like picking up a piece of paper, causes a sharp pain in the back..

The Good News

You are not alone. Almost everyone  will have at least one backacke in their life. Because the lower back supports most of your body's weight, that is where the pain is most likely to occur.

Lower back pain is the second most common reason that Americans see their doctor, after colds and the flu. Like colds and the flu, most backackes will get better in about a week. Most back problems will get better by themselves. It is important  to know when to seek medical help and when you can take care of the problem yourself at home.

Low back pain may be acute (short-term), lasting less than one month, or chronic (long-term, continuous, ongoing), lasting longer than three months. While getting acute back pain more than once is common, continuous long-term pain is not.

Common Causes of Back Pain

Back pain usually starts right after you lift something heavy, move suddenly, sit in one place for a long time, or have an injury or accident. However, the pain is often a sign that something has been going wrong for awhile.

There are several possible sources of low back pain, but even a doctor may never determine which is the original cause of your back pain. These possible problems include:

  • Small fractures to the spine from bone loss (osteoporosis)
  • Muscle spasm (when your muscles tense up and stay contracted)
  • A ruptured disk
  • A herniated disk
  • Disk degeneration
  • Mis-alignment of the vertebrae
  • Spinal stenosis (when the spinal canal is too narrow)
  • Strains or tears to the muscles or ligaments that support the back
  • Scoliosis or other spinal curvatures
  • Other medical conditions like the mysterious condition called fibromyalgia

Low back pain from any cause often includes muscle spasms of the large muscles that lie next to the spine. The muscle spasm and stiffness accompanying back pain can really hurt!

Risk Factors

  • Work in requiring heavy lifting or lots of bending and twisting
  • Work involving whole body vibration
  • Bad posture
  • Pregnancy
  • Older than 30 years
  • Smoking
  • Lack of regular exercise
  • Overweight
  • Arthritis
  • Osteoporosis
  • A low pain threshold
  • Stress
  • Depression

Back pain can actually come from diseases of pelvic organs, including:

  • Bladder infections
  • Kidney stones
  • Endometriosis
  • Ovarian cysts, cancer, fibroid tumors
  • Testicular torsion

Home Care

Many people will feel better within 7 days or fewer after the start of their back pain. After a month, the back pain probably will be totally gone. These steps will help you reduce these times and get well faster.

The most important thing to know is that bed rest is not recommended for back pain sufferers. Unless something serious is wrong (symptoms would include fever, weight loss, weakness or loss of bowel or bladder control, and you should call your doctor about any of these), you should limit your physical activity for no more than a couple of days. After that, gradually resume your usual activities.

  • For the first few days stop normal physical activity for the first few days. This will help relieve the pain and reduce inflammation.
  • Apply heat or ice to the painful area. Common advice is to try  ice for the first 48-72 hours, then apply  heat after that.
  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol). Follow the instructions on the bottle and avoid the temptation to overdose.

Try sleeting in a curled-up (fetal) position with a pillow between your legs. If you usually sleep on your back, a pillow or rolled towel under your knees will help relieve the pressure.

After 2 or 3 weeks you can gradually resume exercise. Light cardio training is best -- walk, ride a stationary bick or swim.

Don't do any heavy lifting or twisting of your back for the first 6 weeks after the pain begins.

Stretching and strengthening exercises are important in the long run. Take it easy after an injury to avoid making the pain worse.

These exercises are risky and should be avoided unless your doctor or physical therapist permits:

  • Ballet
  • Golf
  • Jogging
  • Football
  • Weight lifting
  • Leg lifts while lying on your stomach
  • Sit-ups (unless with bent knees)

When to Call a Doctor

If you have lost bowel or bladder control, you may have a medical emergency. Call 911.

Otherwise, call your doctor if you are experiencing:

  • Fever with the back pain.
  • Back pain after a severe blow or fall.
  • Redness or swelling on the back.
  • Pain traveling down your legs farther than the knee.
  • Weakness or numbness.
  • Burning with urination
  • Blood in urine.
  • Pain that is worse pain when you lie down
  • Pain that awakens you at night.
  • Very sharp pain.

Other reasons to call your doctor:

  • Unintentional weight loss
  • You use steroids or IV drugs.
  • You have never had or seen a doctor about back pain before.
  • You have had back pain before but this time it is a lot different.
  • Your  back pain has lasted more than four weeks.

If you have any of these symptoms, your doctor should check for infection (including meningitis, abscess and urinary tract infection), a ruptured disk, spinal stenosis, hernia, cancer, kidney stone, twisted testicle, and other serious problems.

If you visit your doctor:

The doctor or nurse will ask a number of questions about your back pain, including how often it occurs and how bad it feels. Your doctor will try to determine the cause of the pain and whether home treatments like ice, over-the-counter painkillers, physical therapy, and proper exercises are likely to help. These treatments are usually all that is needed.

The doctor will also give you a physical exam to try to pinpoint the location of the pain. You may be asked to:

  • Sit, stand, and walk on your toes and walk on your heels.
  • Bend over in various directions.
  • Lift your legs straight up while lying down. If this makes the pain worse and you also feel numbness or tingling in one of your legs, you may have sciatica.

The doctor will use a small rubber hammer to check your reflexes and gently touch your legs to check the condition of your nerves.

Because most people with back ache recover within four to six weeks, your doctor is unlikely to order any special tests or imaging during the initial visit. But, if you have any of the symptoms or situations shown below, the  doctor may want further testing:

  • Pain that has lasted longer than one month
  • Numbness
  • Muscle weakness
  • An accident or injury
  • Fever
  • Age over 65
  • History of cancer in yourself or your family
  • Unexplained weight loss

The tests that might be ordered could include X-rays, myelogram, or a CT scan or MRI scan of the lower back.

Hospitalization or surgery would only be considered if nerve damage were present or the condition failed to heal after a long period.

Many people are helped by physical therapy. . The physical therapist will start with techniques that reduce your pain, then will move on to teach you ways to prevent a recurrence of the pain.

If your backacke lasts longer than one month, your doctor may refer you to an orthopedist (bone specialist) or neurologist (nerve specialist).

Preventing Future Back Pain

The primary way to prevent future back pain is exercise. Proper exercise (walking, swimming or stationary bicycle, plus stretching and strength training) will help you:

  • Improve the  posture
  • Strengthen your back muscles
  • Improve flexibility
  • Lose weight
  • Avoid falls

You will also need to learn to lift and bend properly:

  • If an object is heavy or awkward, get help.
  • Spread your feet apart to give a wide base of support.
  • Stand close to the object .
  • Bend your knees, not at your waist.
  • Tighten your stomach muscles as you lift or lower the object.
  • Hold the object close to your body .
  • Lift using your leg muscles.
  • Do not bend forward as you stand up with the object.
  • Do not twist while you are bending for, lifting or carrying the object

Here are some additional things you can do to prevent back pain include:

  • Avoid standing for long periods of time.
  • Avoid wearing high heels.
  • Wear cushioned sole shoes.
  • When sitting for work, especially if using a computer, make sure that your chair is ergonomically correct with a straight back , armrests and a swivel seat.
  • While sitting, use a stool under your feet so your knees are higher than your hips.
  • If your car seat does not have lumbar support, put a small pillow or rolled towel behind your lower back while driving for long periods of time.
  • If you drive long distance, stop and walk around every hour. Bring your seat as far forward as possible to avoid bending. Don't lift heavy objects just after a long drive.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Lose weight.
  • Learn to relax. Yoga, tai chi, and massage are time-tested methods of relaxation.

Here are links to SwopNet Medical Guides to some common medical ailments. These guides provide practical, helpful, un-biased information for patients.

About the medical recommendations on these pages: Some of the medications listed are prescription drugs (requiring a doctor's prescription). Other low cost drugs listed are over the counter drugs (available as drugs without prescriptions) and do not require you to visit a doctor. In any case, you should consult your local physician before ordering or taking any medications. And in all cases, the advice of a licensed medical practitioner familiar with your particular condition should be sought. 




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