Nonspecific back pain refers to pain in the back that is not caused by a diagnosed disorder, such as a muscle strain or ruptured disc.
Nearly everyone has back pain at some time in life. About 20% of people have some form of back pain each year. Back pain is the most common cause of disability for people under the age of 45.
Back pain can occur in the neck, upper back and shoulders, the lower back, or in all of these locations. Often nonspecific back pain results from stresses on the muscles and ligaments that support the spine. Sometimes it is hard to find the cause of the pain.
Back pain can be just a nagging annoyance, or it can be unbearable. A person should consult a healthcare professional if the pain is severe, lasts more than a few days, or interferes with daily activities.
Specific symptoms include: muscle spasmspain in the lower or upper backpain that radiates to the thighs, buttocks, or armstenderness when the back is touched
The exact cause of back pain may be hard to find. Pain can come from muscles, ligaments, nerves, discs, or bones. People who are inactive are especially at risk because their muscles lack conditioning. They are likely to be strained when they are suddenly put to use.
Other risk factors include the following: advancing agefrequent or heavy liftingoverweight or obesitypoor posturerepetitive movements, including twistingsmoking
Many times, nonspecific back pain can be prevented. Some helpful steps include:Exercising regularly.Following ergonomic principles in setting up workstations.Practicing good posture.Stretching muscles before exercise.Taking frequent breaks from prolonged sitting or standing.Using good lifting techniques.
Diagnosis of nonspecific back pain begins with a medical history and physical exam. The healthcare professional may order tests, including: a CT scanan MRIX-rays
Nonspecific back pain can interfere with personal and work activities.
Nonspecific back pain is not contagious and poses no risk to others.
Nonspecific back pain usually goes away in a few days to a few weeks. Treatment usually includes resting the back for just a few days. Many people think that back pain means spending a long time in bed, whereas in fact, the opposite is true. In general, it is best to begin moving and doing normal activities within a few days, because too much rest can cause more back pain in the long run because the muscles become weakened.
Other treatments for back pain include: antidepressantscorticosteroid injectionsheat or icemild exercise that does not stress the backmuscle relaxants to relieve muscle spasmsacetaminophen (i.e., Tylenol)nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (i.e., Advil, Motrin)prescription pain medicines for severe painstress management
Occasionally, physical therapy or chiropractic can be ordered to reduce pain and improve function.
NSAIDs may cause stomach upset or allergic reactions. Other medicines may cause drowsiness, constipation, or allergic reactions.
Generally, a person can expect to recover reasonably quickly from nonspecific back pain. Learning about the back and how to prevent reinjury is important.
People with nonspecific back pain can expect to feel better within a few days to a few weeks. If healing does not occur within this time, or if any new or worsening symptoms occur, a healthcare professional should be consulted.
Clinical Practice Guidelines, Acute Low Back Problems in Adults, US Department of Health and Human Services, Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, Number 14, 1994
Back Pain, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Patient Handout, 1997
Fact Sheet on Back Pain, American College of Rheumatology, [hyperLink url="http://wwww.rheumatology.org/" linkTitle="www.rheumatology.org"]www.rheumatology.org[/hyperLink]