Back Pain


Back pain (a.k.a. "dorsopothy") can be a debilitating condition, and affects nine out of ten adults at some point in their lifetimes. Lower back pain, or lumbago, is the most common type of pain in the back, and ranks as the fifth most common reason for visiting the doctor. The middle and upper back can also experience pain, though these sites are less common.

Pain in any area of the back may manifest itself in numerous ways:

Causes include:

Lower back pain affects the portion of the back known as the lumbar spine, and causes Americans to spend $50 billion annually on treatments. Lower back pain is also the top reason for disability on the job, and causes a high percentage of absences from work. Upper back pain and middle back pain are much less common, due to the high stability and limited movement in the thoracic spine (upper and middle back), and are primarily caused by myofascial (muscular) pain and joint dysfunction.


There are simple steps we can take each day to prevent pain from occurring in the back. Often, these tactics involve education and an adjustment of our approach to daily tasks. For example, a leading cause of both upper back pain and lower back pain lies in muscular irritation, so a prevention tactic would be use caution and proper technique when lifting heavy objects. Other postural and ergonomic factors for preventing pain in the back include the practice of good posture when sitting and standing, and choosing beds and furniture that provide sound spinal support. Some patients have had success in back pain prevention through relaxation therapy and by focusing on emotional causes that lead to pain.


While the causes of pain in the back are numerous, thankfully so are the treatment options. The goal of a treatment plan should be to decrease the pain rapidly, while bringing back the individual's ability to function. Side effects and degree of success of each treatment should be assessed in order to identify the best treatment or combination of treatments.

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When To See Your Doctor

Though most cases of do not necessitate an immediate trip to the doctor's office, there are certain types of pain that must be evaluated by a doctor:

Additional Reading
Follow this link for more information on exercises for lower back pain.

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