Most people with first-time back pain get better within a few days to several weeks.
Their problem is usually mechanical, meaning that their back isn't working right.
They rarely need special tests to figure out what's going on.
Resuming activity swiftly is more important than knowing the exact source of pain.
Nine of 10 people who have back pain once will have back pain that recurs.
There are steps you can take when back pain strikes.
Apply heat or ice to the sore area.
Position your back for comfort.
Use postures that take pressure off the sore area.
Get moving sooner rather than later.
You can take steps to avoid future back pain.
Develop and use core muscles, especially with tasks like lifting.
Use proper posture, body mechanics, and lifting techniques.
Maintain reasonable body weight.
Stay flexible and conditioned.
Several structures in the spine can be a source of back pain.
Muscle: Muscles rarely cause pain, but tendons attaching on the ends can register pain.
Bone: The periosteum (bone surface) has sensors for pain.
Disc: The outer rings of the annulus sense pain, especially when cracks form in this area.
Ligament: When these supportive structures are stretched or torn, they send pain signals.
Nerve: The sheath that covers spinal nerves has sensors for pain.
Joint: The capsule enclosing spinal joints is rich with pain sensors.
Degeneration leads to these conditions.
Annular tears: Small tears in the outer ring of the disc commonly occur as part of the degenerative process. The tears can also come from sudden injury to the disc, such as a twist or strain that overpowers the strength of the annulus.
Herniated disc: The nucleus in the center of the disc pushes through the annulus. A herniated nucleus can cause neurogenic pain. The chemicals released can inflame the nerve root, leading to sciatica (pain that travels down the leg in the area of the spinal nerve).
Facet joint arthritis: Degeneration causes the disc to collapse and the facet joints to press together. The articular cartilage on the surface of the facet joints can become osteoarthritic, much like other joints in the body.
Three "red flags" need immediate medical attention.
Cauda equina syndrome.
Worsening leg numbness or weakness.
Back or leg pain that is getting worse.
Your body and mind benefit from engaging the relaxation response.
Your body benefits because muscles relax, blood pressure drops, and pain eases.
Your mind benefits because stress calms, focus clears, and thoughts become streamlined.