Back pain is among the most common medical conditions. Whether it is a sharp pain in the lower back or an ache in the muscles, most of us have experienced back pain at some point in our lives.
The good news is that most episodes of back pain will pass within a few weeks. Simple home treatment and over-the-counter medication can often ease symptoms with no further need for treatment.
On the other hand, back pain is sometimes difficult to treat. And a lot of times, the causes of back pain have developed over a long period of time. If you are experiencing pain in your back, understanding the cause is key to proper treatment.
This section provides an explanation of the several causes of back pain, the symptoms, and when it’s important for you to see a doctor. You can also find an overview of the different conditions that can cause back pain, as well as the types of back pain that typically accompanies them.
For specifics on how to improve your physical condition and avoid activities that lead to back injuries, see the prevention section. For those who are currently experiencing back pain, there is information on the various treatment options available and how you can achieve back pain relief. We also provide a detailed list of Chiropractors, Yoga Studios, Osteopaths and Acupuncturists that can help you manage back pain better.
It is important to understand that back pain can be a symptom of many different illnesses and conditions, not a diagnosis itself. In many cases, doctors can't find an exact cause for the pain. However, when a cause is found, common explanations include:
Most back pain will gradually improve with home treatment and self-care. If you don’t see any signs of improvement within the first 72 hours, see your doctor. Otherwise, seek immediate care if you experience any of the below symptoms.
Back pain varies widely and is caused by many different conditions. Some of these include:
To diagnose back pain, your doctor will ask about your symptoms and take your medical history. In addition, your doctor will conduct a physical exam to check for pain, muscle tenderness or weakness, stiffness, numbness or abnormal reflexes.
If your doctor suspects a more serious problem involving your vertebrae or spinal nerves, you may need one or more of the following tests:
Most episodes of back pain are not serious and improve with a few weeks of home treatment and care. Limited bed rest (no more than a few days) and over-the-counter pain relievers may be all that you need to feel better. Resume your daily activities as much as possible, but temporarily avoid any heavy lifting, prolonged sitting, or sudden bending or twisting. If your symptoms haven’t improved after a few weeks of home treatments, your doctor may suggest some of the treatments below:
You can prevent some forms of back pain by improving your physical condition and by avoiding activities that lead to back injury. Measures that may help prevent back pain include: