This Is the No. 1 Way to Ward Off Chronic Back Pain, Experts Say

Here's what to do if you suffer from this common condition.

If you've ever experienced chronic back pain then you know just how debilitating it can be. In fact, it's one of the most common health-related reasons that people report missing work, the Mayo Clinic says. However, you don't need to wait until back pain interrupts your life to do something about it. Experts say there's a simple way to prevent this type of pain, and doing so for just 15 minutes each day can make a world of difference. Read on to learn the number one way to ward off chronic back pain, and how to recognize the red flags which suggest you require a doctor's care.

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Back pain is one of the most common health complaints.

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A leading cause of disability worldwide, back pain is an extraordinarily common health concern. Those with back pain may experience an aching, shooting, burning, or stabbing sensation which persists uninterrupted, or comes and goes with motion.

"Back problems are among patients' most frequent complaints to their doctors," say experts from the Health Policy Institute at Georgetown University. "Nearly 65 million Americans report a recent episode of back pain. Some 16 million adults—eight percent of all adults—experience persistent or chronic back pain, and as a result are limited in certain everyday activities," write Georgetown experts.

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This is the number one way to prevent chronic back pain.

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Experts say there's one simple way to prevent chronic back pain, and that it takes just minutes a day to do. "Movement is the best way to ward off back pain," write experts from Harvard Health Publishing. "Regular physical activity can make the back stronger to reduce future episodes of pain. Exercises should focus on increasing strength and improving range of motion—as well as ensuring balance on both sides of the body, as some back pain can start when one side of the body is stronger than the other."

Not sure where to begin? Check out the Mayo Clinic's top seven exercises for preventing back pain in just 15 minutes per day.

Take note if motion exacerbates your back pain.

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While exercise and regular movement is one of the best ways to prevent chronic back pain, it may also cause or worsen a back injury. This can occur if you damage the muscles or ligaments around the spine, herniate a spinal disc, experience cartilage breakdown between the joints in the spine, and more.

It's important to take note of which types of motion seem to worsen your back pain so you can discuss them with your doctor or a physical therapist. With professional guidance, you may still be able to use targeted exercise to strengthen your back muscles, while being mindful of any current injury.

Here's when to call the doctor.

woman having telehealth visit with male doctor on ipad
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The good news for those with back pain is that most of the time, it will resolve on its own in a matter of weeks. "As long as no 'red flags' exist, the patient should be encouraged to remain as active as possible, minimize bed rest, use ice or heat compresses, take anti-inflammatory or analgesic medications if desired, participate in home exercises, and return to work as soon as possible," write experts from the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP).

However, the Mayo Clinic notes that there are certain circumstances that may require medical intervention—or at least a discussion with your doctor. You should call your physician if your back pain persists after more than a few weeks of self-care, is particularly severe and doesn't improve with rest, causes weakness, numbness, or tingling in the legs, extends below the knee, or is accompanied by unexplained weight loss.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more
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