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The following are common concerns people have about back pain:

The back is a complicated structure of bones, joints, ligaments and muscles. You can sprain ligaments, strain muscles, rupture disks and irritate joints, all of which can lead to back pain.

While sports injuries or accidents can cause back pain, sometimes the simplest of movements — for example, picking up a pencil from the floor — can have painful results. In addition, arthritis, poor posture, obesity and psychological stress can cause or complicate back pain. Back pain can also directly result from disease of the internal organs, such as kidney stones, kidney infections, blood clots or bone loss.

Back injuries are a part of everyday life, and the spine is quite good at dealing with these often “pulled” muscles. These very minor injuries usually heal within one or two days.

Some pain, however, continues. What makes it last longer isn’t entirely understood, but researchers suspect that the reasons may include stress, mood changes and the fear of further injury that may prevent patients from being active.

In addition, sometimes a painful injury or disease changes the way the pain signals are sent through the body. Even after the problem has gone away or is inactive, the pain signals still reach the brain. It’s as if the pain develops a memory that keeps being replayed.

Does back pain go away on its own?

Eighty percent of people suffer from back pain at some point in their lives. Back pain is the second most common reason for visits to the doctor’s office, outnumbered only by upper-respiratory infections. Most cases of back pain are mechanical or non-organic — not caused by serious conditions, such as inflammatory arthritis, infection, fracture or cancer.

Will back pain go away on its own?

Until recently, researchers believed that back pain would heal on its own. We have learned, however, that this isn’t true. A recent study showed that when back pain is not treated, it may go away temporarily, but will most likely return. The study demonstrated that in more than 33 percent of people who experience lower-back pain, the pain lasts for more than 30 days. Only 9 percent of the people who had lower-back pain for more than 30 days were pain free five years later.

Another study looked at all of the available research on the natural history of lower-back pain. The results showed that when it is ignored, back pain doesn’t go away on its own, but continues to affect people for long periods after it first begins.

How can I prevent long-term back pain?

If your back pain isn’t resolving quickly, visit your doctor. Your pain will often result from mechanical problems that your doctor of manual medicine or chiropractic can address. Many patients with relatively long-lasting or recurring back pain feel improvement shortly after starting treatment. Spinal manipulation is a safe and effective spine-pain treatment. It reduces pain, decreases med-ication, rapidly advances physical therapy and requires very few passive forms of treatment such as bed rest.

How can I prevent back pain?

* Don’t lift by bending over. Instead, bend your hips and knees and squat to pick up the object. Keep your back straight and hold the item close to your body.

* Don’t twist your body while lifting.

* Push, rather than pull, when you must move heavy objects.

* If you must sit for long periods, take frequent breaks and stretch.

* Wear flat shoes or shoes with low heels.

* Exercise regularly. An inactive lifestyle contributes to lower-back pain.

What should I tell my doctor?

Before any treatment session, tell your physician if you experience any of the following:

* Pain that goes down your leg below your knee.

* Your leg, foot, groin or rectal area feels numb.

* You have a fever, nausea, vomiting, stomachache, weakness or sweating.

* You lose bowel control.

* Your pain is caused by an injury.

* Your pain is so intense you can’t move around.

* Your pain doesn’t seem to be getting better quickly.

The information and recommendations in this article are appropriate in most instances, but they are not a substitute for a diagnosis by a specialist.

Dr. Joseph Tansey is a chiropractor in Groton and lives with his wife and daughter in Pepperell. You can reach him at (978) 448-2800.

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