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

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 »

Rubbing it in

Topical pain-relief products provide quick relief for sore muscles and joints, but they vary in effectiveness. People whose stomachs are sensitive to oral pain relief medications may prefer to use a cream or ointment. (Locked) More »

Pain relief, opioids, and constipation

Opioid drugs like morphine are the most effective pain relievers, but constipation is a typical side effect. it is therefore advisable to take a stool softener and a laxative when taking an opioid. More »

Emergencies and First Aid - Back Injuries

Unless the person is able to tell you to the contrary, assume that anyone with a back injury also has a neck injury. Place a board, such as a door or table leaf, next to the person. The board should extend below the buttocks (ideally to the feet) and above the head. Keeping the head aligned with the rest of the body, gently logroll the person toward you. Move the board under the person and ease him or her onto it. If the person is vomiting, lay him or her on one side and continue to support the head. More »