Acute and chronic back pain is a major public health problem. Up to 90% of all adults suffer from a low back pain episode at least once in their life.1 The pain may originate from the muscles, ligaments, nerves, bones, joints or other structures in the spine. Acute low back pain with or without sciatica is usually self-limited and has no serious underlying causes.
In general, back pain can be felt constantly or intermittently, stay in one place or radiate to other areas. It may be a dull ache in nature or a sharp, piercing or burning sensation. Many patients with self-limited episodes of acute back pain do not seek medical care. Among those who do seek medical care, the improvement in the pain, disability and return to work occur rapidly in the first few weeks.2 Nevertheless, pain and disability are typically ongoing and recurrences are fairly common.
For most patients, reassurance and pain medications are sufficient modalities of treatment. A more thorough evaluation is required in patients associated with an increased risk of cauda equina syndrome (a serious condition caused by compression of the nerves in the lower portion of the spinal canal), cancer, infection or fracture.
The following self-help treatments may help to relieve back pain:
1.Gautschi OR, Cadosch D, Hildebrandt G. Acute low back pain--assessment and management. Schweiz Rundsch Med Prax. 2008; 97(2): 58–68.
2.Pengel LH, Herbert RD, Maher CG, et al. Acute low back pain: Systematic review of its prognosis. BMJ. 2003; 327(7410): 323.
3.Hayden JA, van Tulder MW, Malmivaara A, et al. Exercise therapy for treatment of non-specific low back pain. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2005; (3): CD000335.
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