Five Fast Facts About Back Pain

Back pain is one of the most common conditions we see at GoHealth Urgent Care. In fact, a whopping 80% of U.S. adults will experience back pain in their lifetimes. Here are five fast facts about back pain everyone should know!

1) Back Pain Has Lots of Different Causes.

Back pain can come from any of the structures in your back -- including the kidneys, muscles, ligaments, disks, vertebrae and the spinal cord. Patients can also experience referred pain from the lungs, intestines, blood vessels, urinary tract or reproductive organs. Because the causes of back pain are complex, it’s wise to seek medical attention if you’re experiencing back pain so a medical professional can make an accurate diagnosis.

2) Back Pain Can Indicate a Life-Threatening Condition.

While 95% of patients with back pain recover quickly without any long-term complications, back pain can be a red flag indicating a life-threatening emergency. Red flags of back pain include sudden onset, severe pain, fever, urinary or bowel incontinence, and weakness or numbness in the lower extremities. Patients with these symptoms require emergency medical care to quickly diagnose and treat a potentially critical condition.

3) Several Factors Can Increase Your Risk of Back Pain.

While back pain can sometimes occur for unidentifiable reasons, there are many known risk factors for this condition. Some risk factors are beyond patients’ control -- like genetics, female gender and age. Modifiable risk factors include smoking, lack of exercise and obesity (especially if the excess weight is around the abdomen.)

4) Not Everyone With Back Pain Needs Imaging.

X-rays and MRIs are the two most commonly-used imaging tools for back pain. Since X-rays show bony structures, they can be used to diagnose fractures and degeneration or arthritis of the spine. MRIs are used to image soft-tissue structures, including the spinal cord, spinal ligaments, paraspinal muscles and disks. However, since most cases of back pain are musculoskeletal and resolve on their own with little-to-no intervention, not everyone with back pain needs imaging. If you’re experiencing back pain, a medical professional can evaluate your symptoms, examine you, and determine whether imaging is indicated.

5) You Can Take Several Steps to Prevent Back Pain.

The good news is that there are lots of steps patients can take to prevent back pain! Avoiding tobacco use, achieving or maintaining a healthy weight, using good body mechanics, creating an ergonomic work space, and exercising for at least 150 minutes every week have all been shown to decrease the risk of developing back pain.

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