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What Causes Back Pain?

Why is the back such a pain? Dr. Rob gives tips to put the pain behind you.

By
Rob Lamberts, MD
Episode #030

How Do You Treat Back Pain?

So what should you do if you have back pain caused by an injury to a muscle?  The good news is that by resting, keeping active, and avoiding bags of lead, the back will heal on its own after a few weeks. Treatments revolve around treating the pain, and include:

Heat and ice – heat relaxes muscle spasm, whereas ice reduces inflammation. Both can give you temporary relief, and either is OK.

Medication – medications for back pain focus on inflammation, muscle spasm, and the pain itself. For minor pain, OTC medications like ibuprofen are often enough, but sometimes, stronger medications are required.

Massage and manipulation – massage, physical therapy, and chiropracty are examples of massage and manipulation. Massage relaxes the muscles, whereas physical therapy strengthens other muscles that can take the stress off of the muscles causing pain. I was not trained in chiropracty, so I won’t promote or discourage it, but many people do find it helps a lot.

Quick and Dirty Tips for Back Pain

So here are my quick and dirty tips regarding back pain:

Tip 1:  Be Careful
Don’t pretend you can do things you can’t. Only lift things that you know you can handle, and lift by squatting rather than bending over.

Tip 2:  For Muscular Back Injury, Do the Following:

  • Take anti-inflammatory pain medications (and check out Nutrition Diva's episode about foods that fight inflammation).

  • Use Ice and heat

  • Don’t let your back get stiff. Back exercises can help people get better much faster. I’ll put a link to some exercises at the bottom of this article.

  • Get sleep. Sleep lets your muscles relax, so if your pain is keeping you up, the muscles might not loosen up. Combination pain and sleep medications are useful for this, and your doctor can give you something stronger if over-the-counter medications aren’t enough.

Tip 3:  Talk To Your Doctor For Any of the Following:

  1. Back pain or sciatica that is severe

  2. Pain that persists despite you taking measures to get it better

  3. Pain that has sudden onset with no clear cause

  4. Weakness or numbness in your legs

  5. Loss of control of bowels or bladder (which could signify damage to the spinal cord)

Back Pain Summary

My take-home message is that most back pain goes away without major treatment, and most treatment involves improving symptoms. And please don’t insist on x-rays or MRI scans, as they are only useful in limited circumstances.

If exercise really is one of your goals but you suffer from back pain, click here for a great Get-Fit Guy episode on that subject.

If you have questions you want answered, send them to housecalldoctor@quickanddirtytips.com. You can find me on Twitter as @housecalldoc and on Facebook under “House Call Doctor.”

Let me remind you that this podcast is for informational purposes only. My goal is to add to your medical knowledge and translate some of the weird medical stuff you hear, so when you do go to your doctor, your visits will be more fruitful. I don’t intend to replace your doctor; he or she is the one you should always consult about your own medical condition.

Catch you next time!  Stay Healthy!

Back Pain image courtesy of Shutterstock
 

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About the Author

Rob Lamberts, MD
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