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Low back pain: Key points
  • Almost everyone has back pain at some time in their life. In fact, it is the #2 reason why Americans see the doctor.
  • The low back is the most common area to be affected by pain. This is because the low back supports the weight of your head, trunk, and arms.
  • Along with your low back pain, you may feel numbness, tingling, or weakness in your legs or feet. If you do, you should notify your doctor.
  • A single, sudden movement may lead to the feeling of pain. However, this pain may be a result of poor posture, such as using improper form while standing, sitting, lifting, or other activities. The specific cause of back pain is usually not identified.
  • Lots of people have spine problems, like bulging disks. But not everyone experiences pain from them.
  • Most episodes of low back pain start to improve within one week and clear up within four to 6 weeks.
  • Your doctor may consider ordering tests or sending you to a specialist if you have certain warning signs or if your pain lasts longer than 1 month.
  • Getting back pain more than once (called recurrent pain) is common. But there are lots of steps you can take to avoid getting back pain again.
  • Back pain becomes more likely as you get older. But exercise, good posture, and proper movements for bending and lifting can help prevent back pain, no matter what your age.
  • Stress and depression make you more likely to experience long-term, ongoing back pain. Learning to relax can help reduce your chances for back pain.
  • Jobs that involve heavy lifting, lots of bending, and whole body vibration (like truck driving) can raise your chances of getting back pain. There are lots of ways to adjust these activities, if they are part of your job description. If you take such steps, you can avoid back pain.
  • Lose weight and quit smoking to lower your chances of getting back pain.
  • Bed rest is NOT recommended if you have back pain. Reduced activity level is only recommended for the first couple of days.
  • Avoid exercise in the days immediately after your back pain begins. After 2 - 3 weeks, gradually resume exercise. You may start getting back to everyday activities after just a few days.
  • Working with a physical therapist can be very helpful, especially if your pain lasts longer than 2 - 3 weeks.


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Review Date: 6/29/2011
Reviewed By: Andrew W. Piasecki, MD, Camden Bone and Joint, LLC, Orthopaedic Surgery/Sports Medicine, Camden, SC. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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