Back Pain

Back pain is one of the most common painful and non-life-threatening conditions. It affects four in five Americans at some point in their lives. The good news is that back pain need not govern how you live your life.

If you have back pain, medication, exercise, and changes in your lifestyle are likely to offer the most relief. Surgery is useful in a minority of people

Most back pain isn't dangerous, but it's important to learn the "red flag" situations that require immediate medical attention. These include:

  • back pain that occurs at the same time as a fever
  • leg weakness that comes on abruptly or gets progressively worse
  • numbness in the groin
  • loss of bowel or bladder control
  • pain that worsens instead of getting better
  • inability to find a comfortable position for sitting or sleeping during times when you feel back pain

Other self-care steps you can take to mend your back include different types of exercise and complementary therapies such as chiropractic care, acupuncture, and massage, as well as choosing the right mattress.

Back Pain Articles

Low back pain attacks: One pill may be enough

Adding muscle relaxers or narcotic pain relievers to the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) naproxen (Aleve) did not improve pain or function for people who went to emergency rooms seeking help for severe low back pain. More »

Three steps to build a better back

Brisk walking works many muscles that support a strong and healthy back, such as the muscles in the thighs, calves, abdomen, hips, and buttocks.  Image: Thinkstock Strengthening, stretching, and improving posture will go a long way toward reducing back pain that comes with age. (Locked) More »

Physical therapy as good as surgery for common spine-related back pain

Surgery and intensive physical therapy each produce similar relief for spinal stenosis, or back pain caused by narrowing of the space around the spinal nerves. Surgery has risks, but physical therapy requires more effort. The choice comes down to personal preference. Some men may find surgical risks acceptable in exchange for the chance of immediate relief; other men may prefer to give physical therapy a try first. Research suggests that the physical therapy must be relatively rigorous to be effective. (Locked) More »

Best bets for back pain

Hot and cold compresses, physical activity, exercise, and safe lifting techniques help men to heal and to prevent low back pain. Recent research shows that acetaminophen (Tylenol and generics) has limited benefit for low back pain, but it remains appealing because it is safer for the stomach than other over-the-counter pain relievers. But acetaminophen is still a reasonable thing to try before moving on to less stomach-friendly options, such as the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), and common aspirin. More »

What triggers back pain?

A study found that likely triggers for episodes of back pain include carrying heavy loads; lifting loads in an awkward position; and being tired, fatigued, or distracted. Sexual activity and drinking alcohol were not tied strongly to new back pain. More »

Sore back? Try a massage

Research suggests that when added to usual back pain care, massage can provide extra pain relief, better function, and quicker return to daily activities. It’s unclear what type of massage works best. For best results, ask your personal physician, family, and friends to recommend a therapist. Find out if a local hospital or medical center has an integrative medicine program with massage therapy. Check if the therapist is certified by a recognized professional group, such as the American Massage Therapy Association. More »

Chiropractic care for pain relief

Chiropractic is a health care system that holds that the structure of the body, particularly the spine, affects the function of every part of the body. Chiropractors try to correct the body’s alignment to relieve pain and improve function and to help the body heal itself. A chiropractor may advise you about changing your biomechanics and posture and suggest other treatments and techniques. The ultimate goal of chiropractic is to help relieve pain and help patients better manage their condition at home. More »

Stand-up desk options

You can make stand-up desk from an old door and two sawhorses, customize a store-bought desk, or pay a company for a ready-made one. Here are some options. More »