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Low Back Pain (cont.)

What Happens

The course of low back pain depends both on its cause and on how well you treat your back.

Most low back pain goes away within several weeks. But after you have had back pain once, you're more likely to have it again. Many people who recover have back pain again within a year, and most people will have it again sometime during their lives.

Long-lasting (chronic) pain not only makes you tired, irritable, and less productive and less active but also can trigger other problems. If your back pain causes you to use your body in different ways (for example, to limp or to sit differently), pain can develop in other areas of the body. Pain can also cause biochemical changes in your body that tend to keep the pain going. Without special treatment, you may get chronic pain syndrome.

What Increases Your Risk

A risk factor is something that increases your chances of having back pain. Having more risk factors means you have a higher chance of having back pain.

Physical and family risk factors

  • Being middle-aged or older
  • Being male
  • Having a family history of back pain
  • Having had a back injury before
  • Being pregnant. A woman's back is significantly stressed by carrying a baby.
  • Having had compression fractures of the spine
  • Having had back surgery before
  • Having spine problems since birth

Risk factors you can change with lifestyle changes

  • Not getting regular exercise
  • Doing a job or other activity that requires long periods of sitting, heavy lifting, bending or twisting, repetitive motions, or constant vibration, such as using a jackhammer or driving certain types of heavy equipment
  • Smoking. People who smoke are more likely than people who don't smoke to have low back pain.
  • Being overweight. Excess body weight, especially around the waist, may put strain on your back, although this has not been proved. But being overweight often also means being in poor physical condition, with weaker muscles and less flexibility. These can lead to low back pain.
  • Having poor posture. Slumping or slouching on its own may not cause low back pain. But after the back has been strained or injured, bad posture can make pain worse. "Good posture" generally means your ears, shoulders, and hips are in a straight line. If this posture causes pain, you may have another condition such as a problem with a disc or bones in your back.
  • Being under stress. Stress and other emotional factors are believed to play a major role in low back pain, particularly chronic low back pain. Many people unconsciously tighten their back muscles when they are under stress.

Risk factors you might change with medical treatment

  • Having long periods of depression
  • Using medicines long-term that weaken bones, such as corticosteroids
  • Having an illness or disease that causes chronic coughing
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eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

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