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Back Pain Overview

Back pain affects almost everyone at some stage of their active adult life. It is one of the most frequent reasons for going to the doctor or missing work. Because it affects many people, some tend to think that back pain is simply a part of daily life. It's been estimated that about 60 to 80 percent of North Americans will suffer from back pain at some point in their lives.

Back pain may originate from structures that form the spine such as bones, joints and ligaments, the muscles and tendons that support the back, nerves that exit your back bone, or even from some internal organs. Some practitioners maintain that emotions are held in the back along the spine as well meaning that heightened emotions (like depression, stress and anxiety) can also physiologically manifest in the back as pain.

The discomfort caused by back problems varies in severity. Some people may have mild pains, but for others, it can be potentially debilitating, making it difficult to carry out many everyday activities. Back pain can last for a few days, but may also be long lasting in some cases.

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How does your back work?

Back pain can be a frustrating for patients and their doctors, but on the bright side, it rarely requires surgery. There are also many ways to prevent back problems. Although treating it can sometimes be difficult, learning how your back works and having a better understanding of the possible causes will help you in managing back pain.

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Types of Back Pain

Acute Back Pain

This type of back pain is usually caused by accidents, injury, heavy lifting, or sudden movements that misalign the spine or surrounding tissues. Acute back pain may also occur when in sustained periods of high stress accompanied by muscle tension. It flares up without warning. The back pain is either piercing or dull, and it may last for three to six months or less.

Chronic back Pain

Chronic back pains last for at least a few months and do not respond quickly to treatment. People with chronic back pain may complain of deep ache which is not usually sharp and occurring in one part of the back and and may extend to the legs.

Chronic back pain develops over time, it may result from poor posture, having excess body weight, aging, and long-standing stress on the musculoskeletal system. In some people, the cause of chronic back pain is unknown.

Back pain is often the reason for activity limitation among adults below 45 years. Although most individuals recover from within three to six days of injury, statistics estimate that $31 million is spent on visits to doctors for back pain.

More on Effects of back pain


Mc Kenzie, R. Treat Your Own Back. 1985. Spinal Publications Ltd.

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