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Back Pain

Anything from an injury to an underlying health problem can cause back pain. The sooner you address the problem — and the cause of it — the better your chances of finding relief.  

There are two types of back pain:

  • Acute: Typically occurs after a fall, injury or heavy lifting
  • Chronic: Pain that persists, or worsens, for three months or longer

Back pain: what you should know

  • As you age, you are more likely to develop back pain. 
  • Lower back pain accounts for the majority of back pain. Four out of five adults will experience significant low back pain at some point in their lives. 
  • Most acute back pain will resolve on its own. You can often find relief with these at-home remedies:
    • Rest
    • Heating pad and/or ice
    • Stretches
    • Exercise
    • Over-the-counter pain relievers
  • Chronic back pain and significant back problems may require physical therapy, injections, medications and/or surgical intervention.
  • Different types of back pain require different treatments. Back stretches that relieve one kind could intensify another, particularly right after a flare up. Spine and back specialists at Rush can help you identify the right approach.
  • Back pain is one of the most common reasons for patients to see physicians.

Back pain causes

Some causes of back pain include the following:

How can I get help for back pain?

Most back pain will go away on its own within a couple weeks.

While rare, back pain can signal a more serious problem, such as a neurologic condition or cancer. Your primary care doctor might refer you to a spine expert or a pain management specialist at Rush who specializes in diagnosing and treating a wide range of complex back problems.

Talk to your primary care doctor immediately if you have any of these red flags associated with back pain:

  • Numbness or weakness in the legs
  • Bladder and bowel problems
  • Intense pain that wakes you from sleep
  • Low back pain that shoots into your legs
  • A history of cancer
  • Pain that worsens when you cough or sneeze

Departments and programs that treat this condition