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Back Pain Archive

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What to do when health problems or medical treatments thwart your love life

Published February 12, 2011

Health problems, or treatments for them, sometimes thwart sexual desire and sexual function. There may not be a quick fix for health-related sexual problems, but there are things you can do to enjoy your love life while taking care of the rest of your health.

Ask the doctor: What can you tell me about surgery for vertebral fractures?

Updated January 1, 2011

Q. I have osteoporosis and a recent spine fracture. I hear there's a minor surgical procedure that can fix the fracture. Can you tell me anything about it?

A. Fractures of the bones in the spinal column (vertebrae) are common in people with osteoporosis; about 750,000 occur each year in the United States. In this type of fracture, called a compression fracture, the vertebra collapses, often causing pain, a gradual loss of height, or stooped posture. Even if the fracture doesn't cause obvious symptoms, having one fracture increases the risk of having another one. The cumulative effect of multiple fractures is chronic pain, disability, depression, and difficulty managing normal daily activities.

This week from HHP: Health apps, office noise, and hemorrhoid cream for the eyes?

Published November 16, 2010

As usual, Harvard Health Publishing’ writers and editors have been busy covering a range of health topics. Here is a small sampling. To read more, visit us at www.health.harvard.edu. Health apps. Smart phones like the iPhone and Android aren’t just phones. They are also pocket-sized computers capable of running sophisticated applications, or apps. Hundreds of […]

What causes pain in the lower back?

Updated June 1, 2009
Pain in the lower back can sometimes present itself as pain in other parts of the body like the leg. Or maybe it feels like nerve pain, often called sciatica. But, as Dr. Julia Silver explains, the first step is diagnosis. Watch to learn more.

Rubbing it in

Updated May 14, 2019

Pain relief creams and ointments can get the medicine right to where it hurts, and the smell is often familiar and soothing. But do they work?

When something like a knee hurts, there's a natural tendency to rub it. And if it really hurts, most of us will think about popping a pain-relieving pill of some kind — acetaminophen (Tylenol) for starters, or perhaps one of the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn).

Pain relief, opioids, and constipation

Updated July 12, 2018

Constipation from pain medication – such as opioids – is a common problem

Prescription opioids provide pain relief, but constipation from pain medication is an all too common side effect.

As we age, pain and pain control become an important issue. Many of the conditions that cause pain disproportionately affect people starting at about age 65. In some surveys, half of respondents ages 60 and older have said that they suffer from chronic pain. About 70% of cancer deaths occur in people ages 65 and older, so cancer pain is frequently the older person's problem.

Low back pain: Treatment and prevention

Updated December 1, 2006

About three of every four men have endured a bout of low back pain, and many have had repeated episodes. The pain may begin gradually or suddenly; it may be mild or severe. In most cases, doctors cannot pinpoint the cause of the pain, and in most cases x-rays and blood tests are useless. In fact, even advanced imaging techniques such as MRIs and CTs are not recommended for typical patients.

Most people with low back pain can handle the problem themselves, sometimes with the aid of a phone call or visit to their doctor and the short-term use of simple medications. But there are exceptions; the list below details situations that call for prompt medical attention.

Emergencies and First Aid - Back Injuries

Updated February 3, 2017

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.

Getting a leg up on sciatica

Updated May 14, 2020

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.

Bad backs and backpacks

Updated January 25, 2017

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.

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