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Back Pain? Join the Crowd

Low back pain second only to the cold as work absence factor

SUNDAY, June 1, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- If you suffer from an ache low down in your back, you're certainly not alone.

Low back pain is a common problem -- four out of five Americans will have significant low back pain at some point in their life, says the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS).

And lower back pain is second only to the common cold as the leading cause of lost work days for adults under the age of 45.

Common causes of low back pain include sprain and strain, wear and tear associated with age, osteoporosis and fractures or a protruding disk.

Most low back pain can be treated by medication and activity modification. That doesn't necessarily mean you have to stop doing everything. While rest can be helpful, most research finds that light activity speeds healing and recovery, the AAOS says.

Once the pain decreases, a rehabilitation program may be recommended to help increase muscle strength in your lower back and abdomen and to improve your muscle flexibility.

Long-term treatment may include active prevention such as staying in good physical condition and adhering to proper lifting and posture guidelines to prevent another low back injury.

Achieving and maintaining proper body weight and not smoking are other ways to prevent low back pain.

Some people say that weather conditions can affect low back pain. A study published in the Oct. 1, 1998, issue of Spine examined the connection and concluded that weather conditions may have a significant influence on people's self-reporting of low back pain.

The study said the weather effects on low back pain may be small, but should be considered by doctors when treating people with chronic, non-specific low back pain.

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more about back pain.

SOURCES: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
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