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What is Low-Back Pain?

Lower Back Pain (LBP) is usually defined as a condition in which the patient feels pain in their lower back, buttocks, or legs. 

There are two types of back pain: chronic and acute

  • Chronic: pain that lasts for three months or longer.
  • Acute: short-term pain that can last between several days to weeks.

Why Should You Care?

  • In the U.S., we spend almost $50 billion each year on back pain
    •  Back pain is the 2nd most common neurological problem
    •  Approximately 4 in every 5 people will have an episode of back pain at some point in their lives.
  • Low-back pain can sometimes be indicative of a more serious health condition 


  • Back pain is typically caused by problems in how the spine handles everyday stresses.
  • Typically, we grow weaker as we age
    • Our bones become weaker
    • Muscle strength decreases
    • Disk fluid levels lower
  • Scar tissue can build up after repeated stresses
    • Trauma including falls and auto accidents

Risk Factors

Risk factors include:

  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Increased age
  • High impact work
  • Bending
  • Twisting
  • Repeated stress to spine


  • Sudden, blinding pain in the lower back, buttocks, or legs
    • Pain can last for several days or as long as several months in one episode 


Most episodes of back pain can be treated without the use of surgery. Examples of this include:

  • Bed rest
  • Low-stress exercises
  • Medications
    • Aspirin
    • Ibuprofen
    • Naproxen
    • Salicylates
    • Anti-seizure meds
    • Tricyclic antidepressants
  • Spinal manipulation (chiropractors)
  • Ultrasound therapy
  • Traction

Surgical intervention is useful in very serious cases, but only after other therapies have been attempted. Invasive back surgery does not always work, and should only be used on patients with progressive neurologic disease or damage to peripheral nerves.

  • Discectomy
  • Foraminotomy
  • Spinal laminectomy
  • Nucleoplasty
  • Radiofrequency lesioning
  • Spinal fusion


  • For more information regarding lower-back pain, please visit the NINDS.

* CIS does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The content is for informational purposes only. 

Sources: Center for Disease Control and National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

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