How Much Do You Know About Your Back?

Whether you spend your days lifting furniture or sitting in an office chair, your back is almost certain to complain after a while. Backaches may be extremely common, but they're also widely misunderstood. Take this quiz to find out what you know about your back.

1. With adequate testing, doctors can usually pinpoint the exact source of a person's back pain. True or false?

True

False

2. Many people with slipped or "herniated" discs feel little or no back pain. True or false?

True

False

3. Which of the following is NOT an effective remedy for most backaches?

a. Prolonged bed rest

b. Exercise

c. Aspirin

d. Ice packs

4. Which of the following will increase the risk of back pain?

a. Stress

b. Obesity

c. Poor posture

d. All of the above

5. Back pain rarely lasts more than a few weeks. True or false?

True

False

6. Surgery is the only remedy for chronic back pain. True or false?

True

False

7. If a person has frequent back problems, wearing a back brace all day long can help prevent pain. True or false?

True

False

Your Results

1. With adequate testing, doctors can usually pinpoint the exact source of a person's back pain. True or false?

The correct answer is: False.

No matter how many X-rays or MRIs they order, in most instances doctors can only estimate the source of a patient's back pain. But since well-known remedies seem to help many types of backache, doctors can often help you get relief even if they don't completely understand your pain.

2. Many people with slipped or "herniated" discs feel little or no back pain. True or false?

The correct answer is: True.

People with back pain often have slipped discs - but so do people without back pain. Researchers from the University of Washington detected the abnormality in half the subjects who said their backs felt fine

3. Which of the following is NOT an effective remedy for most backaches?

The correct answer is: a. Prolonged bed rest

This once popular remedy is a poor choice for most people with back pain. Staying in bed too long can actually weaken muscles and prolong the agony. Most people will heal faster if they keep moving through the pain and get on with their lives.

4. Which of the following will increase the risk of back pain?

The correct answer is: d. All of the above

Relaxing, losing excess weight, and watching your posture are all excellent ways to ward off back pain. A few more good prevention measures: sleeping on your back or side instead of your stomach, lifting with your legs instead of your back, and strengthening your back muscles through exercise.

5. Back pain rarely lasts more than a few weeks. True or false?

The correct answer is: True

As a rule, the most effective remedy for back pain is time. With a little care, your body has an excellent chance of healing on its own in a matter of weeks.

6. Surgery is the only remedy for chronic back pain. True or false?

The correct answer is: False

Today, doctors usually prescribe exercise or other remedies before resorting to surgery, even when the pain appears to be chronic. For some patients, operations are unavoidable. For instance, if a person shows evidence of significant nerve damage, surgery may be required quickly. Otherwise if a person has had pain for more than six weeks, if the pain shoots down into the leg, and if tests confirm a herniated disc, surgery may be an option for relief. Surgery isn't without risks, so be sure to discuss the potential benefits and complications with your doctor.

7. If a person has frequent back problems, wearing a back brace all day long can help prevent pain. True or false?

The correct answer is: False

When you let a brace do the work of your back muscles, the muscles can grow weak. Braces can be useful, but you should wear them only for short periods of time and only while engaging in activities that might strain your back.

References

Interview with Richard Deyo, MD, a professor of medicine at the University of Washington

Deyo RA and JN Weinstein. Primary care: Low back pain. New England Journal of Medicine. February 1, 2001. 344 (5) 363-370.

Mayo Clinic. Back pain. April 15, 2002

John E. Sarno, M.D. Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection. Warner Books. 1991.

University of Washington Department of Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine. Back Pain. March 2002

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