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Back pain can come from accidents, overuse and injuries like lifting something that’s too heavy, or even from carrying a heavy shoulder bag. Something as simple as bad posture or bending the wrong way can lead to back pain.
Here are some important things to know about preventing and treating back pain.
First you can try rest, hot or cold packs and an over-the-counter pain medicine. If nothing you do on your own seems to work, it may be the right time to see a doctor.
Go to the doctor if:
If you are in moderate to severe pain, be sure to stop exercising and doing other activities that make the pain worse until you can see your doctor. This will help you avoid making the injury worse.
Most doctors will work you into their schedule if you are in serious pain. But if you don’t have a doctor or medical group you use regularly, you may need to go to an urgent care center instead. Most take walk-in patients. Don’t start with a trip to an emergency room. The cost is higher, and the wait to see a doctor may be much longer.
The addiction that can come with using strong pain drugs is a major concern. So most doctors will help you find other ways to treat your back pain. This could include physical therapy, stretches and core-building exercises, or even meditation. If you are overweight or out of shape, diet and exercise can help.
If surgery is needed, talk to your doctor before the surgery about pain management. Be sure to discuss limiting the use of opioids.
One of the best ways to avoid back pain is through regular exercise and stretching. Being fit both strengthens your muscles and gives them support. Focus on exercises that strengthen your core muscles. A strong core helps with posture, makes it easier to lift heavy objects without straining your back and protects your spine.
A diet that includes plenty of Vitamin D and calcium can also help keep those bones strong. The Mayo Clinic suggests three “smart” steps to prevent back pain:
You can’t change some reasons behind back pain, like age. But you can take steps to help.
Originally published August 7, 2017; Revised 2020
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