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Finding Relief for Your Back Pain

Finding Relief for Your Back Pain

Back pain is a common medical condition, particularly as a person ages. Patients suffering from back pain seek relief, through home treatment or via a variety of medical practitioners. In order to find the optimal treatment for back pain, it is helpful to understand the back’s anatomy, the causes of back pain, and what types of treatments are available.

The anatomy of the back

The back is composed of the spine, spinal cord, and associated muscles. The spine consists of the vertebrae, or bones, that are cushioned by cartilage discs which gives the back flexibility. The spinal cord runs inside the vertebrae, and sends out nerve branches between the vertebrae to supply the body’s nervous system. Small muscles and ligaments run around and between the vertebrae. Long muscles run along the sides and the back of the spine to give the spine support. The spine is divided into three areas: the cervical (or neck) spine; the thoracic (middle back) spine; and the lumbar (low back) spine.

What causes back pain

While all parts of the back are susceptible to pain, the lower back bears the brunt of injury due to its structure and its mobility. Injuries in the form of muscle strain and ligament sprains are the top sources of lower back pain. Other conditions, such as osteoarthritis (wear and tear), disc injury, and other arthritic diseases also cause pain in this area as can being overweight, out of shape, pregnancy, and smoking.  Treatment for low back pain depends on the cause but there are general principles to low back pain therapy.

Types of Treatment


  • For acute injury, resting from aggravating conditions, use of medications such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen, and use of ice on the painful area is helpful. If pain is severe, disabling, does not improve with self-care, or if you have other symptoms you should seek relief from a health care professional.
  • To help strengthen the supporting back muscles or to prevent back pain there are exercises you can perform. General aerobic exercise like bicycling or walking helps strengthen muscles and helps you maintain a healthy weight. Other exercises target the muscles in the back and abdomen which support the back.
  • Exercises that stretch these muscles need to be undertaken carefully as they can aggravate some conditions. Check with your health care provider to make certain which exercises will be appropriate in your case. Knee-to-chest stretches and leg stretches should be done slowly and gradually only to the point that the muscle feels slightly fatigued. Abdominal curls (sit-ups) strengthen the abdominal muscles, important muscles helping with back support. Remember to breathe properly during these exercises, and if any pain develops discontinue the routine and consult your medical provider.
  • Another important step in maintaining a healthy back is to use proper posture while sitting or standing for long periods. Always use proper technique when lifting or handling heavy objects, and only do so if you are properly conditioned. A medium-firm mattress with good back support will help you get a good night’s sleep, an important factor in healing injuries.