| Tue, Jun 17, 2014 @ 09:00 AM

Low Back Pain: Prevention is the best medicine.

Posted by Medicare Made Clear

low back painIf you’ve ever said: “Oh, my aching back,” you’re not alone. According to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA), 31 million Americans will have low back pain at any given time.1 As many as 80% of the population will have a back problem at some point in their lives.2 The ACA says, back pain is so common, it is the number one reason for visits to the doctor’s office after upper-respiratory infections.

Not All Pain is the Same

Most low back pain is a nuisance at most and goes away within a few days. If it doesn’t go away, see a doctor immediately if the pain is due to trauma or if you have any of the following symptoms—as these may indicate a serious medical problem:

  • Fever and chills
  • Unexplained recent weight loss
  • Noticeable leg weakness
  • Sudden bowel and/or bladder problems
  • Severe abdominal pain that won’t go away

But in the absence of trauma or a serious medical problem, low back pain may simply be the result of getting older or other causes, such as:

Over-activity: Low back pain can happen when you overdo an activity.  An example is working in the yard after long periods of inactivity. This type of pain usually goes away within a few days.

Disk Injury: If the pain doesn’t go away within a few days, it could mean there is a disk tear or a “slipped” or ruptured disk. Make an appointment to visit your doctor.

There Are Things You Can Do

The ACA states Americans spend at least $50 billion each year on back pain—and that’s just for the costs that were easy to diagnose.3 In the most serious cases, surgery may be needed to ease the pain.

Fortunately, most back pain can be prevented or treated without surgery. The ACA suggests these tips:

  • Maintain a healthy diet and weight.
  • Remain active.
  • Avoid long periods of inactivity.
  • Stretch before exercising or other physical activities, such as gardening.
  • Maintain proper posture.
  • Wear comfortable, low-heeled shoes.
  • Sleep on a mattress of medium firmness to lessen any curve in your spine.
  • Lift with your legs.
  • Quit smoking.

When conservative treatment doesn’t ease your back pain, you may want to try:

Spinal manipulation: A chiropractor uses a series of exercises to adjust spinal structures and restore back mobility.  Medicare Part B  covers spinal manipulation by a chiropractor or other qualified provider if the procedure is medically necessary to correct the problem.

Acupuncture: Needles are inserted along certain points on the body. Acupuncture is believed to trigger the release of naturally occurring painkillers within the body.

Massage: Manual manipulation of muscle and other soft tissues.

Yoga: A combination of physical postures or movement, breathing techniques and meditation.  According to a University of Washington study, people who took yoga or stretching classes are twice as likely to cut back on pain medicine for their back aches as people who managed pain on their own.4

Keep your back healthy and talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise routine or if you have any new back pain.

Pain: Acute or Chronic?



Possible Causes


Generally, the pain is short term and lasts for a few days to a few weeks. Acute back pain is sometimes the result of trauma or injury.

  • Car accidents
  • Sports injures
  • A sudden bending or twisting motion




Generally, the pain lasts for more than three months. It often gets worse with time. The cause is hard to determine.



  • A lifetime of heavy lifting and usage
  • Past injuries or fractures
  • Past surgeries


For more information, explore MedicareMadeClear.com or contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048.


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1 Jensen M, Brant-Zawadzki M, Obuchowski N, et al. Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Lumbar Spine in People Without Back Pain. N Engl J Med 1994; 331: 69-116.
2 Vallfors B. Acute, Subacute and Chronic Low Back Pain: Clinical Symptoms, Absenteeism and Working Environment. Scan J Rehab Med Suppl 1985; 11: 1-98.
3This total represents only the more readily identifiable costs for medical care, workers compensation payments and time lost from work. It does not include costs associated with lost personal income due to acquired physical limitation resulting from a back problem and lost employer productivity due to employee medical absence. In Project Briefs: Back Pain Patient Outcomes Assessment Team (BOAT). In MEDTEP Update, Vol. 1 Issue 1, Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, Rockville.
4 Annie Hauser. 7 Best Yoga Poses to Soothe Back Pain. EverydayHealth.com.

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