Back pain

Pain affecting the back, often restricting movement. The pain usually lasts for only a week or so but can recur in some people. Rarely, persistent back pain causes long-term disability. Back pain is usually caused by minor damage to the ligaments and muscles in the back. The lower back is especially vulnerable to these problems because it supports most of the body’s weight and is under continual stress from movements such as bending, twisting, and stretching. Less commonly, lower back pain may result from an underlying disorder such as a prolapsed intervertebral disc (see disc prolapse) in the spine. In most cases, back pain can be treated with over-the-counter painkillers (see analgesic drugs) such as aspirin and related drugs, nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs, or muscle-relaxant drugs. If the pain persists, a heat pad, a wrapped hot-water bottle or, sometimes, an ice-pack, may provide additional relief. Generally, it is advisable to remain as active as the pain permits. People whose pain worsens or is still too severe to allow normal movement after several days should consult a doctor for medical tests. Investigations for back pain, such as X-rays, CT scanning, or MRI, sometimes reveal abnormalities, such as disc prolapse, that require surgical treatment and can be treated by a microdiscectomy. Other treatments for back pain include acupuncture, spinal injection, exercise, or spinal manipulation.


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