Monday, November 15, 2010
ROCHESTER, Minn. — Here's the bad news: Most adults will experience back pain. But, according to Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource, the pain often will improve or go away with time or with simple self-care measures. And the good news: Back pain typically isn't related to a serious medical problem.
A Special Report on Back Pain, a supplement to the November issue of Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource, covers typical causes of back pain; the many treatment options, both conventional and complementary; as well back pain prevention strategies.
- Causes: Injuries or disk problems are two common causes of back pain. But the exact cause of pain can be hard to pin down and often remains unknown. Medical imaging may not be needed or recommended. Not knowing the exact cause doesn't change the initial treatments.
- Pain medication: Over-the-counter pain medications can help relieve acute pain. Options include acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), aspirin, ibuprofen, (Advil, Motrin, others) and naproxen (Aleve). Many patients won't need or benefit from stronger medications. Prescription pain medication, if indicated, is typically used for a short time.
- Other treatment options: Applying ice or heat can relieve pain. Exercise and physical therapy are important components of most low back pain treatment plans. Doctors typically advise patients to limit bed rest to a day or two at most. Moving around can ease stiffness, relieve pain and get patients back to normal activities more quickly than rest does.
- Complementary therapies: Complementary therapies can help to reduce or manage pain, especially when combined with traditional treatment. Among the many options are spinal manipulation performed by a chiropractor or physical therapist; acupuncture; and biofeedback, where patients learn relaxation techniques to better cope with pain.
- Surgery: Surgery usually is considered only when other treatments have been tried for six months to a year and the pain continues to be severe and unremitting. Recovery after surgery can take weeks or months.
- Prevention: Lifestyle choices can reduce the risk of injury and avoid aggravation of back injuries. Regular exercise, good posture, using safe lifting techniques and maintaining a healthy weight all can reduce the risk of back injury. Not smoking is beneficial, too. Smoking causes the spine to age faster, increasing the risk of back problems.
Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource is published monthly to help women enjoy healthier, more productive lives. Revenue from subscriptions is used to support medical research at Mayo Clinic. To subscribe, please call 800-876-8633, extension 9751, (toll-free) or visit Mayo Clinic's Online Bookstore.
About Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a nonprofit worldwide leader in medical care, research and education for people from all walks of life. For more information, visit MayoClinic.com or MayoClinic.org/news.
Journalists can become a member of the Mayo Clinic News Network for the latest health, science and research news and access to video, audio, text and graphic elements that can be downloaded or embedded.