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

Getting a leg up on sciatica

Sciatica's (pronounced sigh-AT-eh-ka) hallmarks are pain and numbness that radiates down the leg, often below the knee. In nine out of 10 cases, sciatica is caused by a displaced disk in the lower spine. The best medicine is often patience — with some stoicism mixed in — because the pain often goes away, even if the problem disk does not. Researchers have found that the pain usually improves within a month. No one is quite sure why the pain subsides on its own, but it does. But if the pain is very bad or persists, many people with sciatica must decide whether to have surgery. There are several sorts of operations, but they all involve paring back disks in some way so they don't impinge on nerve roots. And these aren't high-risk operations — complications are rare. More »

Bad backs and backpacks

While going to and from school many kids these days look like they have the weight of the world on their shoulders. Although it might not be quite so heavy, some kids actually do carry around a lot of weight in their backpacks. These heavy loads place stress on the spine and shoulders of children, causing muscle strain and fatigue. For some kids the aches and pains are bad enough to seek medical attention. Too much weight can also lead to bad habits such as poor posture and excessive slouching. Unfortunately, doing homework and being prepared in class means carrying books back and forth between school and home. You can help your child lighten the load by teaching him or her organizational skills. By using folders for individual subjects your child can bring home just the work he needs for the day as opposed to lugging everything home. At school, encourage your child to take frequent trips in between classes to his or her locker to replace books. You can also buy a suitable backpack and follow guidelines for proper use: More »