Lower back pain is a common condition affecting about 80% of the U.S. population at some point in their lifetime. Most episodes of lower back pain are caused by muscle strain or spasm, which can come from injury, poor posture, or even poor shoe support.
The good news is that, during a study by The North Carolina Back Pain Project, 95% of people recovered completely from their back pain in just a few months with time and exercise. However, if back pain lasts longer or is associated with leg pain, numbness or weakness, it may due to a spine fracture, disc hernia, arthritic changes or scoliosis. At this point, you may benefit from seeing a physician.
How is back pain treated?
A full medical evaluation for persistent lower back pain may include x-rays, advanced imaging studies such as an MRI or CAT scan or nerve testing. Once a cause of persistent back pain or radiating pain into the legs is determined, treatment can begin.
A comprehensive treatment approach is typically best. It starts with education and insight for the patient into the origin of the pain. It is followed by physical therapy, appropriate medications and spinal injections, which can all be utilized to improve lower back conditions. Surgical procedures to alleviate pain from herniated discs, arthritis, fractures or scoliosis can be considered if other treatment options have failed to help. Today both traditional lower back surgery and minimally invasive procedures are offered.
Can back pain be prevented?
Maintaining a healthy spine with routine exercise and good posture are two of the best ways to prevent the onset of lower back pain. Factors that increase your risk of back pain include obesity, smoking, strenuous activity and overly sedentary work.
Depression is also significantly associated with longstanding back pain, as it is four times more common in patients with chronic back pain than in those without it, according to a study by Sullivan et al. Thus, mental health services are commonly utilized in the comprehensive treatment approach to back pain.
It can take a team of specialists including neurosurgery, orthopedics, pain management, rehabilitation specialists and psychiatry to help patients with persistent spine-related pain achieve maximum relief.
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