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

What's causing your lower back pain?

The lumbar or lower area of the spine can suffer from many different ailments that cause lower back pain. Common problems include back sprains and strains, herniated discs, and spinal stenosis. Some lower back conditions can heal on their own, such as sprains, strains, and disc problems. The pain from spinal stenosis is not likely to go away on its own. Relief may require prescription pain medication and surgery to decompress the nerve roots. (Locked) More »

When is back surgery the right choice?

Conservative back pain care should be tried before surgery because the results are often similar to those of surgery. Conservative back pain care consists of rest, waiting, pain relievers, and physical therapy. Spinal fusion has mixed results but could help in selected cases. One case is spinal stenosis, or narrowing of the space around the spine. When stenosis is accompanied by misalignment of the spinal vertebrae, fusion may be beneficial. However, a first option before fusion is laminectomy, a procedure that enlarges the space around the spinal nerves. More »

Posture and back health

Information about maintaining good posture, which can reduce back pain and provides a number of additional health benefits. More »

Physical and mental fitness are essential for maintaining back health

Preventing occasional back pain from becoming a chronic problem requires both physical and mental fitness. It is important to stay physically active, strengthen the muscles supporting the back, practice good posture when sitting, and maintain flexibility. Healthy sleep and a positive, less stressed attitude helps people be less sensitized to back pain and less apt to fall into a cycle of increasing physical deconditioning and disability. More »

Acetaminophen safety: Be cautious but not afraid

For the average healthy adult, the generally recommended maximum daily dose of acetaminophen is no more than 4,000 milligrams (mg) from all sources. But in some people, doses close to the 4,000 mg daily limit for adults could still be toxic to the liver. It's safest to take only what you need, and to not exceed 3,000 mg a day whenever possible, especially if you use acetaminophen often. More »

Hot or cold for back pain?

Heat or cold can both relieve discomfort from lower back pain. Most experts recommend cold to relieve swelling and heat for spasm or stiffness. (Locked) More »