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Back Pain

"Oh, my aching back!" This common complaint can signal many different medical problems, both physical and psychological. If your back hurts, don't just complain, talk to your doctor. While most back pain is treatable with rest or over-the-counter medications, other forms require x-rays, prescription medicines, and physical therapy. Some causes of back pain are more serious and are best identified-and treated--sooner rather than later. And while back pain is never a good thing, it may have a positive outcome if it becomes a wake-up call for better back care.

Back pain is very common, affecting more than 9% of the adult population (23 million Americans). In one study, work-related back pain was reported by 1.5% of workers (4 million Americans) and 2% of workers missed days from work due to back pain. The direct costs associated with back pain and related disability exceed $15 billion million per year. While new therapies are frequently introduced, many remain unproven. Back pain sufferers are often willing to try anything to relieve their pain, but it is important to get a diagnosis first. Certain treatments take on fad status, but fail to prove effective in clinical trials. Among these treatments are Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) units, lumbar corsets, back belts, biofeedback and traction. Treatments such as chiropractic, magnet therapy, acupuncture, exercise and massage, however, have been shown to be effective in neuromuscular back pain management.

Interestingly, one study in the medical journal Spine found that treating the psychological stressors of people with back pain was another effective way to reduce their back pain. And, while most overweight patients with back pain don't want to hear it, weight loss itself can be very helpful to reduce back pain.

Created: 2/11/2004  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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