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Understanding Back Pain

Whether back pain comes as a surprise or begins to occur on a regular basis, it can feel as though your life is being put on hold. The more you learn about back pain, the better you can manage it on your terms.


If you suffer from back pain, you’re far from alone — about 8 in 10 people will experience back pain at some point. In fact, in the United States, back pain is the number one cause of disability in men over age 45, and it’s the second most common reason people visit the doctor. 

You can experience pain in the upper or lower back, on the left or right side — it can even radiate from one spot to another area of the back or body. Back pain is either acute (lasting from a few days to a few weeks) or chronic (lasting for more than three months). Acute back pain is more common and usually caused by some type of accident, like a fall or sports injury.

8 in 10 people will experience back pain at some point.


A number of different factors can cause back pain. Some of the most common causes are:

  • Strained back muscles or ligaments
  • Bulging or ruptured discs (the cushions between the vertebrae, or spinal bones)
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Severe scoliosis
  • Osteoporosis

Each of these conditions are known to cause pain. See your doctor to get a diagnosis and develop a treatment plan just right for you. ALEVE® is indicated for the temporary relief of aches and pains.


When it comes to back pain relief, there’s good news — most back pain can be treated without surgery. However, what works for one person might not work or be right for another. So, it’s important to talk to your doctor about your options. In the meantime, here are a few things that can provide back pain relief.


The first 72 hours

Tip 1 of 4

Take it easy on your back as soon as you sustain an injury to give it a chance to heal. Rest and over-the-counter medications like ALEVE® can help with back pain. If your pain gets worse or you are not feeling better after three days, talk to your doctor.

Ice and heat at the right times

Tip 2 of 4

As soon as possible following a back injury, ice for up to 20 minutes, several times a day. After two to three days of cold treatment, switch to heat for brief periods to relax muscles and increase blood flow. A warm bath can also help.

Take it easy, but not too easy

Tip 3 of 4

Give your back some rest, but only for a few days. Continuing your daily activities as soon as possible can give your back better flexibility than resting in bed for a week. In fact, bed rest for too long could make back pain worse and lead to other complications, like depression, decreased muscle tone and blood clots in the legs.

Develop an exercise routine

Tip 4 of 4

Regular exercise can help speed up recovery after an injury and strengthen back and abdominal muscles. Check with your doctor or physical therapist first, but some gentle exercises you might try are swimming, walking, strengthening and yoga. Mild pain is normal at the start of exercise, but if it feels worse than mild or lasts more than 15 minutes, stop exercising until you talk to your doctor.