Pain the back or back pain, is a common health problem affecting 8 out of 10 people at some point during their lives. Back pain can range from a dull, constant ache to a sudden, sharp pain. Acute back pain comes on suddenly and usually lasts from a few days to a few weeks. Back pain is called chronic if it lasts for more than three months.
Most back pain goes away on its own, though it may take awhile. Taking over-the-counter pain relievers and resting can help. However, staying in bed for more than 1 or 2 days can make it worse.
If your back pain is severe or doesn't improve after three days, you should call your health care provider. You should also get medical attention if you have back pain following an injury.
Sometimes it can come on suddenly—from an accident, a fall, or lifting something heavy. In other cases, it can develop slowly due to age-related changes to the spine.
Treatment for back pain depends on what kind of pain you have, and what is causing it. It may include hot or cold packs, exercise, medicines, injections, complementary treatments, and sometimes surgery.
Who Gets Back Pain?
Although anyone can have back pain, a number of factors increase your risk. They include:
- Age: Back pain becomes more common with age, with the first attack typically between ages 30 and 40.
- Fitness level: Back pain is more common among people who are not physically fit. For example, weak back and stomach muscles may not properly support the spine. Back pain is also more likely if you exercise a lot after being inactive for a while.
- Diet: A diet high in calories and fat, combined with an inactive lifestyle, can lead to obesity. This can put stress on the back.
- Heredity: Genetics play a role in some disorders that cause back pain.
- Race: African American women are more likely than white women to develop spondylolisthesis, a condition in which bones in the lower spine slip out of place. Learn more
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