Does Back Pain Go Away By Itself?


According to the CDC, 80% of us will have back pain during our lifetime, and 20% of the population currently has back pain. In fact, back pain alone is the second most common reason for a visit to the doctor’s office. (Upper respiratory infection is the most common reason.) One’s first episode of back pain is equally likely to occur at any age from early teens to early 40’s, and 80-90% will have a recurrent episode, according to comprehensive research. Obviously, back pain in general is a serious problem. The good news is that new research is providing more effective treatment strategies and prevention opportunities.

In the past, doctors believed that mechanical neck and back pain heals with pain medication and bed rest. However, we now know that when untreated, back pain recurs in episodes. The pain continues to effect people long after it began, and there is a risk of more significant disability when the initial episodes last for more than 30 days, according to research. Additionally, sometimes the way the pain signals are sent through the body can become problematic. Even after the injured back has healed or is inactive, the pain signals are still sent to the brain. It is like a memory loop of pain that is constantly being replayed.

– Low-back pain: what is the long-term course? A review of studies of general patient populations. Eur Spine J. 2003 12(2)149-65.
– The course of low-back pain in a general population. Results from a 5-year prospective study. J Manipulative Physiol Ther 2003 26(4)213-19.

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