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Back Pain

Painful sensation in the back region. NIH - National Cancer Institute

About Back Pain

It is important to understand that back pain is a symptom of a medical condition, not a diagnosis itself. Medical problems that can cause back pain include the following:

Mechanical problems: A mechanical problem is a problem with the way your spine moves or the way you feel when you move your spine in certain ways. Perhaps the most common mechanical cause of back pain is a condition called intervertebral disk degeneration, which simply means that the disks located between the vertebrae of the spine are breaking down with age. As they deteriorate, they lose their cushioning ability. This problem can lead to pain if the back is stressed. Other mechanical causes of back pain include spasms, muscle tension, and ruptured disks, which are also called herniated disks.

Injuries: Spine injuries such as sprains and fractures can cause either short-lived or chronic pain. Sprains are tears in the ligaments that support the spine, and they can occur from twisting or lifting improperly. Fractured vertebrae are often the result of osteoporosis. Less commonly, back pain may be caused by more severe injuries that result from accidents or falls...Read more about Back Pain National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Specific spinal stabilisation exercises in patients with low back pain: a systematic review

Bibliographic details: Hauggaard A, Persson A L.  Specific spinal stabilisation exercises in patients with low back pain: a systematic review. Physical Therapy Reviews 2007; 12(3): 233-248

Complementary and alternative medicine in the treatment of low back pain: a systematic review

Bibliographic details: Quinn F, Hughes C, Baxter G D.  Complementary and alternative medicine in the treatment of low back pain: a systematic review. Physical Therapy Reviews 2006; 11(2): 107-116

What is the effectiveness of a biopsychosocial approach to individual physiotherapy care for chronic low back pain?

Bibliographic details: George SI.  What is the effectiveness of a biopsychosocial approach to individual physiotherapy care for chronic low back pain? Internet Journal of Allied Health Sciences and Practice 2008; 6(1): 1-10

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Summaries for consumers

Radiofrequency denervation for neck and back pain

Radiofrequency denervation can relieve pain from neck joints, but may not relieve pain originating from lumbar discs, and its impact on low‐back joint pain is uncertain.

Exercise therapy for treatment of non‐specific low back pain

Exercise therapy appears to be slightly effective at decreasing pain and improving function in adults with chronic low‐back pain, particularly in populations visiting a healthcare provider. In adults with subacute low‐back pain there is some evidence that a graded activity program improves absenteeism outcomes, though evidence for other types of exercise is unclear. For patients with acute low‐back pain, exercise therapy is as effective as either no treatment or other conservative treatments.

Insoles for the prevention and treatment of back pain

Back pain is one of the most common health problems in the industrialized world, with estimates that between 60% and 85% of the population will experience it at some point in their lives. Laboratory trials suggest that the use of shoe insoles might be beneficial in the prevention and treatment of back pain, by absorbing the shock of the foot striking the ground and supporting the foot in proper alignment. There are a variety of insoles available.

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Terms to know

Cervical Spine
The upper portion of the spine closest to the skull. The cervical spine comprises seven vertebrae.
Fascia
A sheet or band of fibrous connective tissue enveloping, separating, or binding together muscles, organs and other soft structures of the body.
Lumbar Spine
The lower portion of the spine. The lumbar spine comprises five vertebrae.
Muscles
Muscles function to produce force and motion. They are primarily responsible for maintaining and changing posture, locomotion, as well as movement of internal organs, such as the contraction of the heart and the movement of food through the digestive system.
Nerves
A bundle of fibers that receives and sends messages between the body and the brain. The messages are sent by chemical and electrical changes in the cells that make up the nerves.
Spine
The bones, muscles, tendons, and other tissues that reach from the base of the skull to the tailbone. The spine encloses the spinal cord and the fluid surrounding the spinal cord. Also called backbone, spinal column, and vertebral column.
Thoracic Spine
Thoracic vertebrae compose the middle segment, between the cervical vertebrae and the lumbar vertebrae. There are twelve thoracic vertebrae.

More about Back Pain

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See Also: Sciatica

Other terms to know: See all 7
Cervical Spine, Fascia, Lumbar Spine

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