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

Daily moves to prevent low back pain

Exercise prevents flare-ups of low back pain caused by muscle strain or spasm. Exercise daily to make back muscles more strong and flexible. When back pain is due to a problem in the spine, do not start new exercise without talking to a doctor. Severe back pain that gets worse or prevents you from ever finding a comfortable position for sitting or sleeping warrants immediate medical attention. Yoga shows promise for helping low back pain. Before starting yoga, clear it with your doctor and try it for a limited period to see if it works. More »

What can you do about corns and calluses?

Corns and calluses on the feet are usually the body’s response to protect against repeated pressure or friction. No treatment is necessary unless the hardened patches of skin are painful. Causes include poorly fitting shoes and pressure on the skin from an underlying problem such as a bunion or malformed bone. Treatment of any underlying condition will help keep the callus or corn from returning. So will removing the offending cause. The best protection is a pair of shoes that aren’t too tight, especially in the toes. (Locked) More »

High tech ways to better shoe fit

High-tech machines in specialty shoe stores can provide information that leads to buying a better-fitting shoe. Foot scanners are usually computerized mats that map the pressure points on the soles of the feet and determine a person’s arch type. Gait analyzers record the characteristics and support needs of feet in motion. A trained salesperson with an understanding of shoe construction and the mechanics of mobility must interpret the data from the tests to help get the fit just right. (Locked) More »

Bad backs: Are you happy with your treatment?

A new tool called a decision aid can help make sure people with a herniated disc understand all aspects of treatment. The tool is a questionnaire with multiple-choice questions. It also asks about patient goals and concerns to see if surgical or nonsurgical options may best meet their needs. A doctor can take the results and address any knowledge gaps. The survey has already shown, in clinical studies, that it’s made a difference to patients and helped to ensure that the right candidate for herniated disc surgery is in the operating room. (Locked) More »

Drop pounds to relieve back pain

Carrying extra pounds contributes to disc degeneration in the spine, particularly in the lower back region. Losing weight can take pressure off the discs and ease back pain. (Locked) More »

Spinal manipulation and exercise trump drugs for neck pain

Today's computer-dominated workplace is especially tough on necks, because we sit so long with our shoulders slumped and heads extended toward monitors. People often recover from an episode of neck pain within a year, but relapses are common, and pain may come and go indefinitely. A comparison of treatments for neck pain found that both spinal manipulation and a program of exercises were more effective than medication. (Locked) More »

Torn knee cartilage

I'm 72 and in good health. I've had left knee pain for almost six months. My doctor sent me for an MRI of both knees; it showed "mild to moderate osteoarthritis" in both knees and a torn meniscus in my right knee. What should I do for my "good" knee? (Locked) More »

Yoga and stretching are equally effective for easing low back pain

Low back pain is extremely common; about 80% of us will experience an episode at some time in our lives. The pain usually goes away in a couple of months or so, but it often recurs. Some people develop a chronic form that lasts three months or longer. There are many treatments for chronic low back pain, but none have proved highly effective. Now, a large controlled trial has found that both yoga and stretching exercises are helpful in improving function and reducing symptoms. (Locked) More »