Back Pain

Most Americans will experience back pain at least once in their lives. Chances are you have, and you’re wondering how to prevent it from coming back. Read more to learn what causes back pain, how to prevent it, and how to treat it if it does come around.

11 minute read

Last Updated July 2, 2020

Back Pain - Joint - 1MD

Back pain can be caused by something as simple as strain during an exercise or not bending correctly when you lift something. Persistent back pain, especially in your lower back, is something more serious.

If there is no known cause of your lower back pain, then you may have an underlying medical condition that needs attention. With 75 to 85 percent of Americans experiencing this type of pain in their lifetime, it is time to address the symptoms.

There are certain factors that increase your risk for lower back pain, such as:

♦ Living a sedentary lifestyle
♦ Not exercising regularly
Being overweight
♦ Smoking
♦ Old age
♦ High-impact activity without stretching first

The Causes of Back Pain

The pain results from a problem with the ligaments, muscles, nerves, or vertebrae in your back. The most common causes are related to strain and problems with the structures of the back.

Strained muscles are the most common type of back pain, and it can occur with improper lifting, sudden movements, or over-activity. Typically, this pain will go away after rest and treatment and is not related to any disorder or disease.

Problems can also occur within the spinal structure. Your vertebrae are stacked on top of one another with disks of tissue between them. These disks can slip, bulge, herniate, or rupture, and are the causes of most structural back pains.

Herniated and bulging disks put pressure on nearby nerves and compress them, which can cause sciatica and other numbness pain in your hips and legs.

In addition to structural problems and strains, conditions like steoporosis and arthritis can cause back pain. Osteoporosis is the loss of bone density, and as your bones get thinner, small fractures are more likely to occur. These fractures can compress nerves causing pain.

The inflammation associated with arthritis causes damage to joints and cartilage along your spine, and over time, this deteriorates and narrows your spinal column, causing spinal stenosis and severe back pain.

There are also rare causes of back pain. If after ruling out the more common causes, you still experience pain, you need to see your doctor. Tests can be done to determine if your back pain is caused by one of these rarer conditions.

♦ Degenerative spondylolisthesis, which is the displacement of one vertebra onto another
♦ Cauda equina syndrome, which is loss of nerve function at the lower spinal cord
♦ Fungal bacterial infection such as E.coli
♦ Cancer of the spine or a malignant tumor
♦ Kidney infection or kidney stones

Back Pain Symptoms

The symptoms due to strain or misuse will be short-lived and last for a few days. Anything lasting beyond that could have a more serious cause and warrants a visit to your doctor.

Back pain is considered chronic when it lasts for three months or longer, and will consist of:

♦ A dull aching sensation in the lower back
♦ An inability to stand up straight without pain
♦ Decreased range of motion
♦ A stabbing pain that can radiate down your legs

Back Pain Treatment

For strains and misuse, over-the-counter pain medications and anti-inflammatory drugs can help alleviate pain and inflammation. If you have stomach ulcers or kidney problems, you need to be cautious with NSAIDs, as these can make those conditions worse.

If these medications are not alleviating pain after a few days, then you need to see your doctor to evaluate if there is an underlying issue causing the pain. Topical ointments can be applied to relieve pain, and those containing ibuprofen and lidocaine have been proven to be the most efficient at reducing pain.

Opioids can also be used to treat back pain, and these are stronger pain medications that need to be prescribed by your doctor. These act directly on your brain cells to reduce the feelings of pain. Muscle relaxants can also be prescribed, especially if muscles have been injured as well.

Severe back pain may cause your doctor to use steroid injections, but the relief from this wears off after a few months. If it is determined that the pain is nerve-related, antidepressants may be prescribed because of their effect on brain processing.

Surgery for Back Pain

Only when back pain becomes chronic, will surgery be considered as a last resort. Surgery is rarely needed and is reserved for structural abnormalities that have not responded to conservative forms of treatment.

When pain is severe and unremitting or when nerves become so compressed that muscles get weakened, surgery will be considered. Spinal fusion surgery is the most common surgical procedure, and this involves using vertebrae into a more solid bone structure. Surgery can also remove or replace herniated disks.

Natural Treatments for Back Pain

Pain medications and anti-inflammatory drugs can cause adverse reactions and unpleasant side effects. This is especially true when they are used for a long period of time. It is possible to treat back pain more naturally with key ingredients and supplements.

From the Ocean: Astaxanthin is a powerful antioxidant compound found in ocean creatures. The antioxidant properties of astaxanthin help to reduce inflammation and swelling associated with joint problems like arthritis. Krill oil is another protective compound that can reduce joint pain and promote healing. Krill oil is a preferred option over fish oil as it has better bioavailability. It is also more potent. For the best joint protection and healing, K-Real supplements deliver a potent version of krill oil, that is easily absorbed and utilized by the body.

Collagen: Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body and is a major component of your joints. Consuming collagen has been linked with several health benefits including relief from joint pain. There are several types of collagen, but four in particular are important to joint health. Types I, II, V, and X are all associated with bone or cartilage and without them, the risk and damage from arthritis is significant. Collagen naturally decreases in the body with age. Daily supplements that contain these essential types, can improve symptoms of arthritis and reduce joint discomfort.

Hyaluronic acid: This gel-like substance is found naturally in your joints. It serves to lubricate the joints and promote growth of new bone and cartilage. Aging and arthritis cause hyaluronic acid to become depleted, which further increases the risk for damage to your joints. Hyaluronic acid supplements provide your joints with this essential substance to ensure joints are hydrated, lubricated, and protected from inflammation.

Curcumin: Curcumin is the key compound of turmeric, a spice commonly used for cooking. It is also a strong anti-inflammatory agent that has been used for centuries to treat inflammatory conditions. The proprietary formula of Longvida provides optimized curcumin that works quickly to reduce inflammation in your joints. Optimized curcumin is formulated for enhanced absorption and delivery to areas of inflammation, so provides the most rapid relief from joint pain. 

ApresFlex: ApresFlex is a superior form of boswellia serrata. Boswellia serrata is a tree resin from an Indian tree that was found to possess healing properties centuries ago. The high-quality boswellia serrata found in ApresFlex targets and inhibits pro-inflammatory enzymes. As a result swelling and pain associated with joint problems is reduced. This reduction in pain allows for increased activity to improve flexibility and range of motion. 

How to Get Rid of Back Pain

There are several natural lower back pain remedies you can try, but of course, only after consulting with your doctor.

Heat/ice therapy: Ice packs help to relieve pain and reduce inflammation in acute cases of back pain. Make sure you never apply the ice pack directly to your skin, and always use a towel. Warm compresses can also alleviate pain and relax muscles. Alternating between heat and ice therapy has proven to be most effective.

Essential oils: Oils such as lavender and those made with capsaicin have been proven to reduce back pain. Lavender is more relaxing while capsaicin contains compounds that desensitize your nerves, therefore decreasing pain.

Salt baths: A hot bath will relax your muscles, but adding Epsom salt allows you to soak in valuable minerals that can reduce back pain too.

Exercise: The best exercises for lower back pain and to strengthen your back are the back row, and yoga poses known as the cat-cow pose, the superman, the sphinx pose, and bridges. A few minutes each day will improve posture, reduce pain, strengthen muscles, improve flexibility, strengthen your core, and prevent future back strain and injuries.

Preventing Back Pain

While there may be an underlying condition or disease that causes lower back pain, it can also be caused by your daily activities. There are things you can do to prevent back pain and ease it when it does happen.

♦ Carry less weight, and if using a backpack, make sure weight is evenly distributed to both shoulders and sides.

♦ Work your core, which is the muscles around your abdomen and back, and this will help keep you upright during physical activity. A stronger core reduces the risk of strain and back pain or damage.

♦ Improve your posture with stretching, as poor posture places unnecessary pressure on your spine. If you’re at a desk all day, remember to roll back your shoulders and sit upright.

Long-Term Outlook for Back Pain

Back pain is common, especially as you get older, and many Americans experience it at some point in their lifetime, if not several times. It is only for a small percentage of Americans that back pain is chronic.

The majority of back pain issues will resolve with proper treatment, but more serious cases will require a visit to your doctor and prescribed medications, injections, or even surgery. The good news is that there is plenty you can do to prevent back pain as you get older.

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