A backache, also simply called back pain, can range from being a minor ache that’s always there to sudden sharp, stabbing pain. When it lasts less than six weeks, it’s known as acute back pain. Back pain that lasts three months or more is considered chronic. In some cases, the pain from the back can radiate out and spread to other parts of the body, like the legs or shoulders.
Any number of things can contribute to a backache. In many instances, it might be as simple as poor lifestyle habits piling up and, over time, contributing to the pain. Factors at play can include such things as obesity, inactivity, poor posture or smoking. Other times, a specific fall or injury leads to back pain. Back pain is also linked to other health problems like cancer and arthritis. Some conditions lead to serious and severe back pain, such as herniated discs, spinal stenosis, osteoporosis, ankylosing spondylitis and spinal infections.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Backache
Most cases of back pain can be diagnosed with a medical history and physical examination. It's rare for more invasive tests to be needed. Similarly, the great majority of backaches can be treated in a simple manner. Most cases simply need a regimen of simple stretching exercises, as well as the application of hot and cold packs for 5 to 10 minutes at a time. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are also a go-to tool for managing the pain.
However, there are instances where backache is far more serious and debilitating. Then, treatments will vary based on the nature and extent of the back pain, but surgery is sometimes needed to repair the back in extreme situations.
SOURCES: American College of Rheumatology; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
An estimated 40 million U.S. workers suffer from low back pain.
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