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For most people, summer is a time of physical activity.

Whether by swimming in the waves, playing with your kids, rigging a sailboat on the bay, mowing the lawn or painting the house, most of us exert ourselves more than usual.

If you suffer from upper or lower back pain, this can make summer an uncomfortable time of year.

Who Is at Risk?

Anyone’s back can go out in a painful spasm.

But your risk for back pain rises if you’re older than age 30, unfit, overweight or a smoker. Other risk factors include having arthritis, cancer or a disk disease. Regularly lifting heavy objects, twisting your spine or slouching over a desk could hurt your back, too.

Beat Back the Pain

Acetaminophen, aspirin or ibuprofen can ease some back pain. You may also need prescription-strength painkillers and/or muscle relaxants. Your doctor may also suggest a steroid or numbing shot.

Standard advice says to rest on your back with your knees bent when back pain strikes. But don’t take it lying down for more than a day or two. To keep your muscles strong, walk around for a few minutes every hour. Warm or cold compresses may add some relief.

When to See Your Doctor

Call your doctor if:

  • your back pain resulted from a fall or injury
  • you can’t move
  • intense pain continues after 72 hours
  • you feel numbness or tingling in your groin, rectum or legs
  • you lose control of your bowels or bladder
  • you have weakness, fever or unexplained weight loss

Your doctor may advise surgery if your back pain stems from:

  • a herniated disk
  • spinal stenosis, in which the spinal canal narrows
  • spondylolisthesis, in which spinal bones become displaced
  • a vertebral fracture caused by an injury or osteoporosis
  • degenerative disk disease

Remember: Take time to consider your options.

Studies have found that compared with standard treatment, back surgery offered quicker relief from sciatica caused by a herniated disk. Patients with spondylolisthesis — when one vertebra slips over another — also found speedier relief from surgery.

But many patients can improve without surgery.

If you want to see a physician for your back pain, contact the Spine Centers at Sinai Hospital and Northwest Hospital today.

To schedule an appointment with one of our highly trained physicians and find out why LifeBridge Health is Baltimore’s premier health care organization, call 410-601-WELL.

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