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Step 1: What is low back pain?
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If you are like most people, you will have at least one backache in your life. While such pain or discomfort may be felt anywhere in your back, the most common area affected is your low back. This is because the low back supports most of your body's weight.

You may feel a variety of symptoms. You may have a tingling or burning sensation, a dull aching, or sharp pain. You also may experience weakness in your legs or feet. You may have loss of feeling in parts of your legs.

It won't necessarily be one event that actually causes your pain. You may have been doing many things improperly -- like standing, sitting, or lifting -- for a long time. Then suddenly, one simple movement, like reaching for something in the shower or bending from your waist, leads to the feeling of pain.

How long will the pain last?

Low back pain is usually defined as either acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term, continuous, ongoing). Having acute back pain more than once is common, but continuous long-term pain is not.

  • Acute low back pain lasts less than 1 month and is not caused by any serious medical condition. Most cases get better within 1 week, even without medical attention. It is common to have another episode of pain at a later date, after the first attack. There are many steps you can take to prevent this recurrence.
  • Chronic low back pain lasts for more than 3 months.

As you will learn later in this guide, there are definite steps that you can take to avoid both continuous, chronic pain and acute pain that comes and goes.

 

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Review Date: 6/29/2011
Reviewed By: Andrew W. Piasecki, MD, Camden Bone and Joint, LLC, Orthopaedic Surgery/Sports Medicine, Camden, SC. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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