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A Look At Back Pain

Back of a man and a Caduceus
Back pain is second only to the common cold as the ailment patients most frequently see their doctor for. Some studies suggest about 80 percent of Americans will suffer from back pain at some point in their lives.

Here a look into what causes back pain, its symptoms and various forms pain relief from exercises to medical treatments.

What is lower back pain?
The lower back is what connects your upper and lower body. Because most of your body's weight is placed on the lower back, injuries to it are more susceptible, especially when lifting, reaching, or twisting.

What causes lower back pain?
Lower back pain can be brought on by overuse, muscle strain, injury to the muscles, ligaments, or discs or a combination of all three factors. According to some experts, muscle strain can eventually lead to an imbalance in the spinal structure. This imbalance creates a constant tension on the muscles, ligaments, bones, and discs, thus makes the back more prone to injury or re-injury. Some back pain can also be related to previous back injuries.

Who is at risk for back pain?
While about 4 out of 5 of Americans experience back pain at one time in their lives, there are factors that put some people more at risk than others. These factors include being middle-aged (risk drops after age 65), being male, being pregnant (the back is significantly stressed by carrying a baby), family or past history of back pain, or having spine problems including having had compression fractures of the spine or having spine problems since birth.

Can you prevent back pain?
According to the Mayo Clinic, you may be able to avoid back pain by improving your physical condition and learning and practicing proper body mechanics.

Exercise. Regular low-impact aerobic activities — those that don't strain or jolt your back — can increase strength and endurance in your back and allow your muscles to function better. Walking and swimming are good choices. Talk with your doctor about which activities are best for you.

Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight puts strain on your back muscles.

Build muscle strength and flexibility. Abdominal and back muscle exercises help these muscles so that they work together like a natural corset for your back. Flexibility in your hips and upper legs aligns your pelvic bones to improve how your back feels.

To learn more about the back pain:
Medline Plus, a service of the National Institutes of Health has more information on back pain.
WebMD has additional resources at its Back Pain Health Center.
• You can click here for resources from the Mayo Clinic.