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Back Pain 101
It's one of the most common reasons we go to the doctor. Here's everything you need to know to help your aching back.
Photo: Thinkstock
To be human is to have a sore back. By the time we reach age 50, 9 out of 10 of us will have experienced back pain, the leading cause of disability in people under 45. Doctors prescribe everything from acupuncture to surgery to bring us relief and, as a society, we spend the same amount of money trying to cure back pain as we do cancer. If you're reading this article, you're probably desperate for your own fix. Here's our guide to what may be causing your problem and how to stop it.

Top 3 Causes of Back Pain

Spinal Problems
Herniated disc: In between our vertebrae, small sponge-like pads act as cushions to absorb everyday shocks to our spinal column. Aging and injury can cause those discs to rupture or bulge, putting pressure on the nerves in our spine and causing significant pain.
Sciatic pain: Felt in the sciatic nerve, which runs down your leg, sciatic pain can caused by pressure from a herniated disc.
Arthritis: Osteoarthritis often affects the lower back and can cause a painful narrowing of the spinal canal called spinal stenosis.

What Can Be Done
You might be surprised to learn that back surgery is the treatment of last resort. Because the structure of the spinal column is so intricate and the nerves running through it so numerous, back surgery is a risky procedure that only works about 50% of the time. Most experts recommend exhausting other approaches, which are 90% successful in reducing pain, before going under the knife.

Home Treatment
Strengthen your stomach: This will help your back muscles do their work and decrease the pressure on your spine. Try daily stomach crunches or holding "the plank" for several minutes a day if your back will allow it.
Try medication: Over-the-counter anti-inflammatories and/or prescription muscle relaxants can bring down inflammation in the back and quiet spasms, decreasing pain.
Physical therapy: This can strengthen your back muscles and increase flexibility to help your back return to working condition.
Epidural injections: Doctors can deliver powerful anti-inflammatory medication (steroids) directly into the spine, lowering inflammation profoundly and quickly.
Acupuncture: A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2009 found that acupuncture (in which tiny needles are inserted into pressure points on your body) was more effective at relieving back pain than traditional approaches such as medication.

Next: When to consider surgery
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    Dr. Mehmet Oz
    Dr. Mehmet Oz
    Dr. Oz is a vice-chair of surgery and professor of cardiac surgery at Columbia University. He directs the Cardiovascular Institute and is a founder and director of the Complementary Medicine Program at New York Presbyterian Columbia. Dr. Oz's research interests include heart replacement surgery, minimally invasive cardiac surgery, complementary medicine and health care policy. Dr. Oz has appeared on Second Opinion with Dr. Oz on the Discovery Channel. He is the author of over 350 original publications, book chapters, abstracts and books. He has received several patents.

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    Dr. Roizen is also the founder and chair of the Scientific Advisory Board of RealAge, Inc., a San Diego-based company, which includes an interactive website located at www.RealAge.com.

    Dr Roizen has given more than 1,200 lectures on medical topics to professional medical groups. He continues to use the RealAge metric to motivate his patients. "Dr. Mike" is 59 calendar years of age, but lives his RealAge paradigm—his RealAge of 41.2!  

    Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen want you to become your own health detective! Get an excerpt from You: The Smart Patient and a health journal, too!

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      Dr. Oz's Wake-Up Call
      For years, he's told Oprah Show viewers it's a test that could save their lives. When faced with his own colonoscopy results scare, Dr. Oz finds a new lease on life—and more reason to continue his quest for smarter patients. 
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      My life was changed this month, and I hope that by sharing my experience, it may save yours. I turned 50 in June and decided with the producers of The Dr. Oz Show to get a colonoscopy to demonstrate to the audience what is recommended and what they could expect. To be perfectly candid, if I didn't have a show to do, I probably would have put it off months, perhaps years. I had no risk factors—no obesity, a nearly perfect diet, no tobacco or alcohol consumption and no family history. I knew the odds as they related to my circumstances and worried about colon cancer about as much as being struck by lightning on a sunny day. But I had signed up for the role of teacher in hosting my show and, out of deference to demonstration, found myself at home drinking a solution to clear my bowels in front of a field production crew the evening before the colonoscopy.

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        Bobbie Vazquez
        2 days ago
         In the process of filming Project Past Life I encountered several prior lives of my own during my sessions with Patricia. One of which was Jessica a prostitute in Dodge City in 1873 timeframe. She was murdered by a stabbing in the upper left hand quadrant torso. Up to recently I had a chronic pain in that area for many years and which dissipated over a month after the sessions with Patricia. It was at that point I became a believer.

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