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

Back pain: What you can expect from steroid injections

Doctors recommend conservative measures first to treat back pain conditions. This rule of thumb applies to strain-and-sprain back pain as well as pain related to irritated nerves near the spine. After trying and failing to control back pain with conservative measures, injections of anti-inflammatory steroid medication may be an option. Research suggests that the average pain relief and improved function after steroid injections is small, though some individuals may benefit more. The effect of the injection is temporary and will not improve long-term outcomes. The therapy has risks such as infection, but these are uncommon. Having too many injections at the same location can cause breakdown of soft tissue and bone. More »

Acetaminophen may not help low back pain

The first advice you are likely to get if you have low back pain is "take a Tylenol." However a study published July 24, 2014, online by the journal Lancet indicates that you might do just as well without Tylenol. (Locked) More »

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 »