Back Pain
Is No Laughing Matter

Back pain is not fun. Perhaps no other physical ailment is more depressing and disabling than pain in the back. It’s one of the most common health problems in the United States but you don’t have to fight it with painkilling drugs. There are safer natural treatment methods available with minimal side effects and no long-term risks.

Pain is a warning. The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease estimate between 8 out of 10 American adults will experience a painful back at some point during their life. The Arthritis Foundation reports that 10 percent will experience pain in a given year.

Back pain can range from a dull, constant ache to a sudden sharp pain. Acute pain in the back comes on suddenly and usually lasts from a few days to a few weeks. It may be caused by things like falling, being tackled in football, or lifting something heavy.

Chronic pain lasts for more than 3 months and is much less common than acute pain.

Types of back pain include chronic back, chronic lower back, lower back, upper back, back arthritis and shoulder arthritis.

Back pain is common for both men and women; each equally affected. It occurs most often between the ages of 30 and 50. It’s due in part to the aging process, but many times is also the result of a sedentary lifestyle.

Most back pain goes away on its own within three days

Each year, Americans spend an estimated $24 billion on treatments for back pains, not including missed time from work or being able to participate in daily activities. We take our healthy backs for granted. But when we’re stoved up, we can’t enjoy playing golf or tennis, taking the children to a theme park or picnicking with the family.

Most back-related pain goes away on its own within three days, sometimes longer. Taking over-the-counter painkillers or natural anti-inflammatory supplements for back pain relief and resting can help. Staying in bed for more than one or two days can make it worse.

If your pain is severe or doesn’t improve after three days, you should call your doctor. If your pain is following an injury you should also seek medical attention

Anatomy of the spine

Most pain in the back is attributed to different segments of the spine.

Looking at the spine from top to bottom, there are three main segments. The top segment is the cervical spine, the middle and longest segment is the thoracic spine and the bottom segment is the lumbar spine. There’s another section below the lumbar, called the sacrum, which includes the coccyx (tip of the tailbone), but the sacrum is actually a group of specialized vertebrae than connects the spine to the pelvis.

Pain can occur in any of these segments, but lumbar pain (referred to as low back pain) is the most common as it supports the weight of the upper body.

Thoracic pain is the least common as it’s the strongest part of the spine and supports comparatively less weight. It’s referred to as upper back pain.

Pain in the cervical spine is referred to as neck pain or cervical pain or cervical arthritis.

Pain in the sacrum is generally referred to as sacral pain.

Who gets pain?

Anyone can have back (spinal) pain, but some things that increase your risk are:

  • Getting older. Back pain is more common the older you get. You may first have pain in the back when you are 30 to 40 years old.

  • Poor physical fitness. Pain is more common in people who are not fit.

  • Being overweight. A diet high in calories and fat can make you gain weight. Too much weight can stress the back and cause pain.

  • Inherited diseases or conditions. Some kinds of spinal pain, such as disc disease, can be inherited.

  • Other diseases. Some types of arthritis and cancer can cause back-related pain.

  • Your job. If you have to lift, push, or pull while twisting your spine, you may get back pain. If you work at a desk all day and do not sit up straight, you may also get pain in your spine.

  • Smoking. Your body may not be able to get enough nutrients to the discs in your back if you smoke. Smoker's cough may also cause back pain. People who smoke are slow to heal, so their pain may last longer.

  • Your recreation. If you participate in sports, such as basketball or recreation such as riding ATV’s, dune buggies or cross country motor bikes, these and many other activities may also cause pain in the back.

Another factor is race. For example, black women are two to three times more likely than white women to have part of the lower spine slip out of place.

Causes of pain in the back

Back pain can be caused by a number of things, from sports injuries and other damage to simple wear and tear. If muscles are poorly conditioned or overworked, they are more easily strained.

Someone who works all week at a desk, for example, can strain their back muscles doing heavy yard work on the weekend. Likewise, if the ligaments that help stabilize the low back are weak from inactivity or stiff from overuse, a sudden wrenching movement can cause a ligament sprain.

Aging can also bring lumbar pain. Bones lose strength over time. In someone with osteoporosis, the bones of the lumbar vertebrae can break or compress in a fall or even during some everyday activities.

Arthritis can inflame joints, causing pain and stiffness. And "slipped disks," in which the rubbery cartilage between disks bulge outward, can press against the spinal nerves to cause pain.

There are many causes of pain. Mechanical problems with the back itself can cause pain. Examples are:

  • Disc breakdown
  • Spasms
  • Tense muscles
  • Ruptured discs

Injuries from sprains, fractures, accidents, and falls can result in pain.

Spine pain can also occur with some conditions and diseases, such as:

  • Scoliosis
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Arthritis
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Pregnancy
  • Kidney stones
  • Infections
  • Endometriosis
  • Fibromyalgia

Other possible causes of back pain are infections, tumors, or stress.

Can pain in the back be prevented?

The best things you can do to prevent spine pain are:

  • Exercise often and keep your back muscles strong.
  • Maintain a healthy weight or lose weight if you weigh too much. To have strong bones, you need to get enough calcium and vitamin D every day.
  • Try to stand up straight and avoid heavy lifting when you can. If you do lift something heavy, bend your legs and keep your back straight.


To diagnose back-related pain, your doctor will take your medical history and do a physical exam. Your doctor may order other tests, such as:

  • X rays
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan
  • Blood tests.

Medical tests may not show the cause of your pain. Many times, the cause of pain in the back is never known. Spine pain can get better even if you do not know the cause.

Your primary-care physician can evaluate and treat most cases of back pain. If you have atypical pain, there is suspicion of an unusual cause, or you don’t feel better after several weeks of treatment, your doctor may suggest that you see a rheumatologist, an orthopedist, a neurosurgeon, a neurologist or another specialist for advice.

How is back pain treated?

Treatment for back-pain relief depends on what kind of pain you have. Acute pain usually gets better without any treatment, but you may want to take a natural herbal pain relief supplement combining boswellia and safflower extracts to safely ease the pain.

Of course, over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatories such as acetaminophen, aspirin, or ibuprofen can also be used, but each has gastrointestinal side effects including bleeding. Exercise and surgery are not usually used to treat acute spine pain.

See also natural back relief, arthritis back relief, and back relief.

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Disclaimer: Health statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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