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How Long Does Back Pain Last (And Why)?

Exact Answer: 12 weeks

Back pain is a common medical issue faced by humans all over the world. It can develop because of various reasons such as aging or lifting heavy objects. Back pains can be broadly described into two types; Acute back pain and Chronic back pain.

Short-term back pains or acute back pains can be described as the ones that last for a few days to up to some weeks. The acute symptoms usually resolve on their own and can disappear within a short period. Acute back pains do not cause any residual loss of function and can be treated with minimal effort.

Chronic back pain is the kind that lasts for 12 weeks or more. Some acute back pain patients with persistent symptoms later develop chronic back pain in a year or two. In some cases, the underlying cause for chronic back pain can not be detected and needs to be treated with a different approach.

How Long Does Back Pain Last?

Back pain is usually referred to as lower back pain that is commonly occurring in a large number of people. Lower back pain can last for a few days to a few months. In severe cases of lower back pain, the associated symptoms of the medical issue may last for a year or more before recovery.

While acute back pain is temporary, chronic back pain may even last for up to 12 weeks or more. Several risk factors may lead to developing back pain that can last for a long time. Some of these risk factors include:

  • Age
  • Weight gain
  • Fitness level
  • Psychological factors
  • Job-related factors
  • Mental health
  • Genetics
  • Lifestyle
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Each person experiences back pain at some point in life because of its triggering causes. Most back pain sufferers are in their 30s and suffer because of Compression fractures, fractures of the spinal cord, cancer, muscle spasm, spinal stenosis, sciatica, spine curvatures, or herniated disk. The third type of back pain called subacute back pain can also be added in addition to acute and chronic back pain.

Acute back pains usually last for up to a few days to 4 weeks. Subacute back pains are those that last for something between 4 weeks to 12 weeks. Chronic back pains are those that can be described as back pains that last for 12 weeks or more.

In summary:

Back PainTime Period
Acute Upto 4 weeks
Subacute 4 weeks – 12 weeks
Chronic 12 weeks or more

Why Do Back Pain Last For So Long?

The lower back or the lumbar region of humans is that part of the spine that starts below the ribcage. The lumbar region of the spine tolerates the whole weight of one’s upper body in addition to biomechanical stresses that occur simultaneously with each bodily movement. The lower back region can be further divided into five vertebrae that compromise of the following parts of the lumbar spine:

  • Nerves
  • Muscles
  • Tendons or discs
  • Bones

The aggravation of the lower back nerve roots, lower nerve, lower back muscles, bones, ligaments, or joints, and the decay of the intervertebral disc leads to the development of lower back pain. Although the underlying cause in most cases can not be resolved, one of the causes that may develop back pain is muscle pain that can be a result of daily heavy weight lifting and other straining physical activities.

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Some common back pain treatments include:

Physical Therapy

Chronic back pain can be treated with exercises tailored and customized according to one’s symptoms and health condition. One may consult a physician or spine physical therapist to undergo physical therapy to treat back pain. Pain therapy includes restraining posture, testing pain tolerance, core strengthening, and more.

Injection Based Treatment

There are several injection-based procedures available for treating chronic back pains. Some procedures include epidural steroid injections, nerve ablations, nerve block, etc. Injections are a short time solution to back pain and thus, need to be performed under medical guidance.

Conclusion

Back pain is a common health issue faced by everyone at least once in a lifetime. It may be caused because of several underlying issues such as mental health, physical activities, etc. The symptoms of back pain can be persistent and can last for a very long time.

Back pain can be broadly described into 2 types: Acute and Chronic Back pain. Acute back pain is short-termed and lasts for a few days to up to 4 weeks. Chronic back pain, on the other hand, may last for 12 weeks or more.

References

  1. https://www.jrheum.org/content/67/26.abstract
  2. https://www.bmj.com/content/332/7555/1430.short