Whether you’re a weekend warrior, an elite athlete, or somewhere in between, there’s a strong chance that eventually you’ll deal with back pain, too. Here’s why: Everyday activities that you do without thinking — sitting at the computer, slipping on a pair of shoes, crawling into bed at night — can make or break your spine health. Most aches are caused by strains (injured muscles or tendons) or sprains (damage to the tough fibrous tissue, or ligaments, located where your vertebrae connect to joints). These injuries are typically brought on by overuse, a new activity, excessive lifting, or an accident. Other times, a compressed (aka pinched) nerve, such as in a herniated disk, is to blame for the ache.
Pain in the lower back or low back pain is a common concern, affecting up to 80% of Americans at some point in their lifetime. Many will have more than one episode. Low back pain is not a specific disease, rather it is a symptom that may occur from a variety of different processes. In up to 85% of people with low back pain, despite a thorough medical examination, no specific cause of the pain can be identified.
Other NIH-funded studies are investigating physical therapy and chiropractic approaches. For example, researchers are studying whether therapy programs that emphasize certain types of exercises, such as core stabilization exercises, provide benefit to people who experience recurrent low back pain.
Traction involves the use of weights and pulleys to apply constant or intermittent force to gradually “pull” the skeletal structure into better alignment. Some people experience pain relief while in traction, but that relief is usually temporary. Once traction is released the back pain tends to return. There is no evidence that traction provides any longterm benefits for people with low back pain.
I am a science writer, former massage therapist, and I was the assistant editor at ScienceBasedMedicine.org for several years. I have had my share of injuries and pain challenges as a runner and ultimate player. My wife and I live in downtown Vancouver, Canada. See my full bio and qualifications, or my blog, Writerly. You might run into me on Facebook or Twitter.
Obesity, sedentary lifestyle, and lack of exercise can increase a person’s risk of back pain. People who smoke are more likely to experience back pain than others. Poor posture and weight gain in pregnancy are also risk factors for back pain. In general, fatigue can worsen pain.
I found the [Consumer Reports] articles on back pain very disappointing. I hope I can still trust Consumer Reports when shopping for a washing machine, but I have no confidence that I can trust them when looking for an effective medical treatment. They seem not to understand the difference between anecdotes and data, between a popularity contest and a controlled scientific study. These articles may do harm by encouraging readers to try treatments that don’t work and by suggesting that it is reasonable to prioritize testimonial evidence over scientific studies. On the other hand, these articles may do some good insofar as they may dissuade some patients from rushing to a doctor and demanding imaging studies or prescription drugs.
There are many additional sources of pain, including claudication pain (from stenosis) myelopathic pain, neuropathic pain, deformity, tumors, infections, pain from inflammatory conditions (such as rheumatoid arthritis or ankylosing spondylitis), and pain that originates from another part of the body and presents in the lower back (such as kidney stones, or ulcerative colitis).
As with any health condition or disease, preventing back pain is better than trying to cure it after it has set in, and may be too late. So even if you’re not experiencing back pain symptoms, I would recommend you follow these simple tips:
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Acupuncture is moderately effective for chronic low back pain. It involves the insertion of thin needles into precise points throughout the body. Some practitioners believe this process helps clear away blockages in the body’s life force known as Qi (pronounced chee). Others who may not believe in the concept of Qi theorize that when the needles are inserted and then stimulated (by twisting or passing a low-voltage electrical current through them) naturally occurring painkilling chemicals such as endorphins, serotonin, and acetylcholine are released. Evidence of acupuncture’s benefit for acute low back pain is conflicting and clinical studies continue to investigate its benefits.
COX-2 inhibitors, such as celecoxib (Celebrex), are more selective members of NSAIDs. Although increased cost can be a negative factor, the incidence of costly and potentially fatal bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract is clearly less with COX-2 inhibitors than with traditional NSAIDs. Long-term safety (possible increased risk for heart attack or stroke) is currently being evaluated for COX-2 inhibitors and NSAIDs.
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.
Disclaimer: The entire contents of this website are based upon the opinions of Dr. Mercola, unless otherwise noted. Individual articles are based upon the opinions of the respective author, who retains copyright as marked. The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from the research and experience of Dr. Mercola and his community. Dr. Mercola encourages you to make your own health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified health care professional. If you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition, consult your health care professional before using products based on this content.
Low back pain may be classified based on the signs and symptoms. Diffuse pain that does not change in response to particular movements, and is localized to the lower back without radiating beyond the buttocks, is classified as nonspecific, the most common classification. Pain that radiates down the leg below the knee, is located on one side (in the case of disc herniation), or is on both sides (in spinal stenosis), and changes in severity in response to certain positions or maneuvers is radicular, making up 7% of cases. Pain that is accompanied by red flags such as trauma, fever, a history of cancer or significant muscle weakness may indicate a more serious underlying problem and is classified as needing urgent or specialized attention.
I apply a MythBusters approach to health care (without explosives): I have fun questioning everything. I don’t claim to have The Answer for low back pain. When I don’t know, I admit it. I read scientific journals, I explain the science behind key points (there are more than 440 footnotes here, drawn from a huge bibliography), and I always link to my sources.
The Bucky Baxter Lumbar Support Pillow markets itself as the “back support that hits the spot.” It really does hit the spot, and it’s not foam that provides great support; it’s a buckwheat hull filling. The buckwheat filling provides your back with firm support, but also conforms to the unique shape of your back.
^ Jump up to: a b c d * Consumer Reports; American College of Physicians; Annals of Internal Medicine (April 2012), Imaging tests for lower-back pain: Why you probably don’t need them. (PDF), High Value Care, Consumer Reports, retrieved 23 December 2013
Jump up ^ Lin CW, Haas M, Maher CG, Machado LA, van Tulder MW (July 2011). Cost-effectiveness of guideline-endorsed treatments for low back pain: a systematic review. Eur Spine J. 20 (7): 1024–38. doi:10.1007/s00586-010-1676-3. PMC 3176706 . PMID 21229367.
Taking a step away from the conventional design of large flat cushions is McKenzie’s lumbar support roll with its rotund shape. At just over $20, it is competitively priced and gives good support specifically targeted for the lower back.
Low back pain can be caused by tumors, either benign or malignant, that originate in the bone of the spine or pelvis and spinal cord (primary tumors) and those which originate elsewhere and spread to these areas (metastatic tumors). Symptoms range from localized pain to radiating severe pain and loss of nerve and muscle function (even incontinence of urine and stool) depending on whether or not the tumors affect the nervous tissue. Tumors of these areas are detected using imaging tests, such as plain X-rays, nuclear bone scanning, and CAT and MRI scanning.
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If you see your doctor for back pain, he or she will examine your back and assess your ability to sit, stand, walk and lift your legs. Your doctor might also ask you to rate your pain on a scale of zero to 10 and talk to you about how well you’re functioning with your pain.
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.
^ Jump up to: a b van Middelkoop M, Rubinstein SM, Kuijpers T, Verhagen AP, Ostelo R, Koes BW, van Tulder MW (2011). A systematic review on the effectiveness of physical and rehabilitation interventions for chronic non-specific low back pain. Eur Spine J. 20 (1): 19–39. doi:10.1007/s00586-010-1518-3. PMC 3036018 . PMID 20640863.
Bursting with visual interest from an array of textured and beaded trims, the Alani Beaded Outdoor Lumbar Pillow is at home in any outdoor space. Filled with quick drying polyester and made with 100% solution-dyed acrylic fabric, this plush pillow looks elegant while resisting stains, locking in color and withstanding sun, wind and rain. 100% solution-dyed acrylic fabric . Beaded trim . Resists fading, mold and mildew . High-density polyester fill . Zipper closure . …
For people with a herniated disc, adopting a curled-up fetal position may bring relief during the night. This is because on the side with the knees tucked into the chest reduces bending of the spine and helps open up the joints.
Medications: A wide range of medications are used to treat acute and chronic low back pain. Some are available over the counter (OTC); others require a physician’s prescription. Certain drugs, even those available OTC, may be unsafe during pregnancy, may interact with other medications, cause side effects, or lead to serious adverse effects such as liver damage or gastrointestinal ulcers and bleeding. Consultation with a health care provider is advised before use. The following are the main types of medications used for low back pain:
Evidence suggests that the best way to prevent bouts of low back pain is simply to keep active and to exercise regularly. This means general fitness exercise such as walking, running, swimming, etc. There is no firm evidence to say that any particular back strengthening exercises are more useful to prevent back pain than simply keeping fit and active. It is also sensible to be back-aware. For example, do not lift objects when you are in an awkward twisting posture.