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:
- Heating pad and/or ice
- 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:
- Degenerative disc disease
- Herniated disc, also referred to as "slipped disc" or "ruptured disc"
- Injury or trauma
- Muscle or ligament strain
- Poor posture or extra weight
- Spinal stenosis
- Vascular diseases
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