Back Pain: The Universal Ailment
If you’re like most people, you don’t give much thought to your back—until it hurts. But when it does, it’s not only painful it also affects your daily life.
It may surprise you to learn that four out of five adults will experience a bout of significant low-back pain sometime during their lives. In fact, after the common cold, back pain is the most frequent cause of lost work in adults under the age of 45. Even minor damage to one component of your back’s structure can upset the interworking of bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and nerves that balance and bear the weight of your body and the loads you carry.
Low-back sprains or strains occurring from sudden forceful movements are the most common causes of low back pain. Other common causes include painful conditions in vertebral disks due to aging, arthritis or injury, and sciatica caused by nerve inflammation or compression.
Most cases of low-back pain are not serious and respond to simple treatments. Your first step should be to see a primary-care physician or orthopedist, who can properly diagnose the condition, the cause, and offer a solution. For many episodes of low back pain, no expensive tests are needed. If you have severe pain that doesn’t respond to treatment, some imaging tests, such as CT or MRI scans, may be ordered.
Under your doctor’s guidance, you will probably need to adjust your activities, although studies show that light activity speeds healing and recovery. Your doctor will also prescribe medications to relieve pain and inflammation.
Not all back pain can be prevented, but you’ll reduce the chances if you:
- exercise regularly to keep the supporting muscles strong and flexible,
- use the correct lifting and moving techniques,
- avoid lifting very heavy objects,
- maintain proper body weight,
- don’t smoke, and
- maintain good posture.
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