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Tia has interned at Science News, Wired.com, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and has written for the Center for Investigative Reporting, Scientific American, and ScienceNow. She has a master’s degree in bioengineering from the University of Washington and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California Santa Cruz.

And it’s always amazing to me how chronic pain can, with the right therapy, just suddenly end — it’s not common, but it does happen. Lots of people who thought they’d “tried everything” for lower back pain read this tutorial and then write to me and say, “Well, I guess I hadn’t tried everything!”

If you have back pain, further testing is not normally recommended unless your symptoms don’t improve after a few weeks or if you have one of the red flags [see box]. If your GP sends you for tests you may have:

^ Jump up to: a b c Freedman MD, Woodham MA, Woodham AW (March 2010). The role of the lumbar multifidus in chronic low back pain: a review. PM&R. 2 (2): 142–6. doi:10.1016/j.pmrj.2009.11.006. PMID 20193941.

If back pain is severe, your doctor may try other medications that focus on different parts of the pain response, such as gabapentin or amitriptyline, a tricyclic antidepressant. The latter may work better for nerve-related pain.

It’s not always possible to identify what is causing back pain – but most of it feels worse when moving, might be associated with feeling stressed or can get better or worse depending on your position.

Since I first started treating low back pain in 2000, there’s been an explosion of free online information about it — countless poor quality articles. Back in the day, we actually had to go to a doctor or buy a book to get shoddy back pain information — now it’s just a Google search away.234 Even many better articles still have serious “attitude” problems.5 But it’s worse than that: even professional back pain guidelines are often misleading.6 For instance, despite overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary, it’s extremely common to incorrectly portray back pain as a “mechanical” problem, as if the spine is a fragile structure which breaks down and causes pain.7 This is based on decades old misconceptions about how backs work, and how pain works, which the medical world is only gradually learning to leave behind.

Because minimally invasive surgery necessitates only minute incisions, it yields many advantages. Minimally invasive surgery lessens the risk of scarring and trauma to surrounding tissues. It also significantly shortens recovery times.

^ Jump up to: a b Poquet, N; Lin, CW; Heymans, MW; van Tulder, MW; Esmail, R; Koes, BW; Maher, CG (26 April 2016). Back for acute and subacute non-specific low-back pain. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 4: CD008325. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD008325.pub2. PMID 27113258.

Now you can kick back and relax anywhere, inside or out, with this comfortable and supportive Reading Pillow. The Majestic Home Goods Indoor/Outdoor Navy Blue French Quarter Reading Pillow provides back and head support that is perfect for many activities such as reading, working on your laptop or lounging with friends. Stuffed with a super loft recycled polyester fiber fill, the reading pillows zippered slipcover is woven from Outdoor Treated polyester and has up to 1000 hours of U.V….

If you see a doctor for back pain, he (or she) may use terms such as thoracic, lumbar, lumbosacral, or sacrum. The point is, back pain is a large topic covering many different regions (or levels) of the spine.

When you improperly lift heavy objects, twist your back or overstretch, you risk marring ligaments and muscle tissue. While these may sound like mild injuries, they can be surprisingly debilitating and long-lasting if ignored or not taken care of properly.

Some people seem to benefit from the use of ice or heat. Their use, although not proven effective, is not considered to be harmful. Take care: Do not use a heating pad on high or place ice directly on the skin.

Twisting or lifting a heavy load the wrong way can sprain or strain the muscles and ligaments in the back, causing acute back pain. In addition, the cushiony discs between the backbones, or vertebrae, tend to disintegrate with age, reducing how much shock absorption they can provide, though doctors don’t agree on how much this causes back pain. [Infographic: Diagram of the Skeletal System]

Inflammation and wear of the sacroiliac joint: This lies where your spine and pelvis come together. It doesn’t move much, but it’s important because it moves the load of the upper body to the lower body. Swelling and wearing away of the joint cartilage can happen after an injury, because of arthritis, infection, or even pregnancy.

Though it can be tempting for people to put their feet up or lie in bed when back pain flares up, that’s actually the worst thing they can do, Maher said. Studies in dogs, sheep and pigs show that loading the joints and muscles in the back can speed tissue recovery after an injury, he said. 

Depending on the cause of your pain, your treatment could include lifestyle changes, medication, or possibly surgery. Talk with your doctor if your back isn’t feeling right. He can help you discover what’s causing the hurt and can help you feel better.

This orthopedic memory foam lumbar support by Sweet Relief is the perfect balance between firmness and softness. It features an adjustable strap, which can extend from 20 to 36 inches, and breathable mesh fabric. You’ll also get a free mesh support so you can enjoy lumbar support in both your car and your home.

Bulging or ruptured disks. Disks act as cushions between the bones (vertebrae) in your spine. The soft material inside a disk can bulge or rupture and press on a nerve. However, you can have a bulging or ruptured disk without back pain. Disk disease is often found incidentally when you undergo spine X-rays for some other reason.

Enthoven WT, Geuze J, Scheele J, et al. Prevalence and Red Flags Regarding Specified Causes of Back Pain in Older Adults Presenting in General Practice. Phys Ther. 2016 Mar;96(3):305–12. PubMed #26183589. How many cases of back pain in older adults have a serious underlying cause? Only about 6% … but 5% of those are fractures (which are serious, but they aren’t cancer either). The 1% is divided amongst all other serious causes. In this study of 669 patients, a vertebral fracture was found in 33 of them, and the chances of this diagnosis was higher in older patients with more intense pain in the upper back, and (duh) trauma. BACK TO TEXT

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Back pain can have many underlying reasons, but often no specific cause will be found and the pain will stop. This chapter will review many of the causes of back pain and proper evaluation and diagnosis. Please be sure to discuss your individual symptoms as well as the suggested treatments with your health-care professional to determine the appropriate diagnostic and treatment plan for your circumstances.

National Health and Medical Research Council. Evidence-based Management of Acute Musculoskeletal Pain. [online] Dec 2003. [Accessed 29 June 2011] Available at: http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/_files_nhmrc/file/publications/synopses/cp94.pdf (PDF 1.3mb).

A complete medical history and physical exam can usually identify any serious conditions that may be causing the pain. During the exam, a health care provider will ask about the onset, site, and severity of the pain; duration of symptoms and any limitations in movement; and history of previous episodes or any health conditions that might be related to the pain. Along with a thorough back examination, neurologic tests are conducted to determine the cause of pain and appropriate treatment. The cause of chronic lower back pain is often difficult to determine even after a thorough examination.

The good news is that it’s easy enough to diagnose cancer if you look for it, so the answer to the dilemma is to simply do the testing when the time is right, but not before. There’s every reason to screen for cancer when the conditions merit it — that is, when the red flags appear in combination with persistent, severe pain.

Nine hours — that’s how long the average person spends hunched over or slouched in front of a screen each day. A Temple University study suggested that increased texting on our latest tech obsessions — smartphones and tablets — is creating more aches and pains in our shoulders, necks, and backs. It’s important to take breaks, do neck exercises, and occasionally hold your phone or tablet out in front of you, says Deborah Venesy, MD, a doctor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the Cleveland Clinic Center for Spine Health. For a simple neck reliever, hold your head for 10 seconds in each of the following positions: forward, back, left, and right. Repeat this five times a day.

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