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Back Pain Archive

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Three steps to build a better back

Updated September 9, 2015

Brisk walking works many muscles that support a strong and healthy back, such as the muscles in the thighs, calves, abdomen, hips, and buttocks. 

Image: Thinkstock

Strengthening, stretching, and improving posture will go a long way toward reducing back pain that comes with age.

4 ways to turn good posture into less back pain

Updated April 18, 2020

Most of us get back pain at some point in our lives. It may be due to a sports-related injury, an accident, or a congenital condition such as scoliosis. But most of the time, upper or lower back pain develops during the course of day-to-day life. Repetitive activities at work or home, such as sitting at a computer or lifting and carrying, may produce tension and muscle tightness that result in a backache. One solution to preventing back pain is to improve posture.

In addition to improving your posture, general physical fitness and a healthy weight are important are important, too. But the surprisingly simple act of paying attention to improving your posture can go a long way.

Physical therapy as good as surgery for common spine-related back pain

Updated August 6, 2015

New study findings provide better guidance to men about treatment options for spinal stenosis.

Spinal stenosis, a progressive narrowing of the space around the lower (lumbar) spinal nerves, is a common cause of back pain and disability in men over age 65. When anti-inflammatory medications and injections fail, stenosis sufferers start looking for other solutions. A surgical procedure called decompression can improve things temporarily, but like any back surgery, it comes with risks.

Physical therapy and back surgery equally effective, study shows

Updated June 12, 2015

Spinal stenosis—narrowing of the spinal canal that increases pressure on spinal nerves—is a common source of lower back pain and weakness. Although many people assume that surgery to remove pressure on the nerves is the most effective way to bring relief, there is little evidence to support that assumption. A study reported in the April 7, 2015, issue of Annals of Internal Medicine indicates that physical therapy may be just as effective as back surgery in providing pain relief and enabling people to get around better.

For the study, 169 men and women with disabling spinal stenosis were randomly assigned to two groups—87 to have surgery and 82 to have intensive physical therapy. Two years later, both groups had similar results on physical function tests. However, 33 of the patients who underwent surgery had complications, usually requiring more surgery.

Best bets for back pain

Updated June 19, 2015

Judicious use of pain relievers can help you keep doing your usual daily activities, which aids recovery from back pain.

Images: Thinkstock

When your back is bothering you and you don't want to take prescription drugs, over-the-counter solutions and physical therapies can help relieve symptoms.

New recommendations aim to improve safety of pain-relieving spinal steroid injections

Published May 7, 2015

Each year, several million people with neck or back pain get injections of anti-inflammatory steroid medications. When they work (they don’t always), such injections can bring profound relief. But injecting these medications into the spine can cause partial or total paralysis, brain damage, stroke, and even death. Case reports beginning in 2002 highlighted serious problems linked to spinal steroid injections. In 2014, the FDA started requiring a warning on the labels of injectable steroids. A Viewpoint article in this week’s Journal of the American Medical Association spotlights new safety recommendations to help prevent these rare but real problems. The new recommendations are part of the FDA’s Safe Use Initiative.

What triggers back pain?

Updated April 11, 2015

There's been a lot of research on what puts men at greater risk of back problems, like being overweight or sedentary. But we know less about what exactly triggers a bout of back pain. A new study in Arthritis Care and Research helps fill that gap.

The study involved 1,000 people who went to 300 different clinics in Australia with low back pain. The researchers carefully interviewed the participants to figure out when the back pain started and possible triggers they noticed within two hours of when the pain started.

Early scans for back pain add cost but offer little benefit for seniors

Published March 20, 2015

Older adults with new back pain usually end up getting a CT scan or MRI. That’s often a waste of time and money and has little or no effect on the outcome, according to a new study from the University of Washington. The results of the study contradict current guidelines from the American College of Radiology. The guidelines say that it’s “appropriate” for doctors to order early MRIs for people ages 70 and older with new-onset back pain, and many doctors do just that. The study, which followed more than 5,200 men and women over the age of 65 who saw a primary care physician for a new bout of back pain, found that people who got early back scans did no better than those who didn’t have scans. The scans added about $1,400 per person to the overall cost of back pain care — with no measurable benefit.

Bed rest for back pain? A little bit will do you.

Updated January 24, 2017

Bed rest, once a key part of treating back pain, has a limited role in healing sore backs. In very small doses, bed rest can give you a break when standing or sitting causes severe pain. Too much may make back pain worse. Here is how to do bed rest "right."

To get the most from staying in bed, limit the time you are lying down to a few hours at a stretch, and for no longer than a day or two. You can rest on a bed or sofa, in any comfortable position. To ease the strain on your back, try putting pillows under your head and between your knees when lying on your side, under your knees when lying on your back, or under your hips when lying on your stomach. These positions reduce forces that sitting or standing impose on the back — especially on the discs, ligaments, and muscles.

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