Fact: Approximately 8 out of 10 people have experienced back pain at some point in their lives.

Wow. With that many sufferers among us, it's no surprise that I often hear complaints of back trouble as an acupuncturist and alternative practitioner in my New York wellness center.

"Throwing your back out" can be characterized by a number of symptoms, ranging from tingling, numbness, and stiffness to pain traveling down the legs, such as sciatica. Usually the discomfort clients talk about emanates from the lower back, the connection between the lower and upper body that bears much of the body's total weight.

Acute, or sudden, back pain often serves as a warning light. It's the body's signal that stress, wear and tear, or a particular activity may be a problem. Acute back pain usually mends on its own in a few days to a few weeks but can often be relieved even more quickly with the help of rest and mind-body attention. The goals of treatment: minimize pain, relax tight muscles, and restore motion.

Chronic or long-term back pain, discomfort that lasts longer than 3 months, can be more challenging to quell and can also be more debilitating over time. (Just ask someone who is dealing with it!) Because the discomfort is continuous and often intense, many sufferers also develop a form of depression. A medical diagnosis is especially important in chronic cases because back pain can mask other health problems. Medication from your physician, or even surgery as a last resort, may be indicated for pain management.

For chronic back pain, the treatment goal is multifold: Slow the degenerative process, manage pain, support healthy tissue and bone, and manage and balance inflammatory response.

The most common causes of back pain--whether acute or chronic--include

- Unusual movement resulting from lifting heavy objects incorrectly, awkward bending or twisting of the torso, and general overexertion and strain
- Injury from sports, car accidents, or falls
- A preexisting spinal weakness that suddenly flares up and presses on a nerve, such as with herniated discs
- Tight or strained muscles, such as the piriformis, pressing on a nerve
- Sitting still for extended periods of time, as well as the poor posture that often comes with such inertia
- Aging, including bone loss and arthritis which can cause pain
- The constricting, tightening action of STRESS. It may appear last on this list, but it's at the core of many cases of back pain.

Do your back a favor. Take a second look at the common causes of back pain above. Do you see a risk factor that applies to you? If so, is there something you can do? True, not all conditions are preventable, but a great many are. If there's a step you can take right now to minimize or eliminate your potential for falling victim to back pain, your comfort and well-being are worth making that effort.

Author's Bio: 

Roberta Roberts Mittman, L.Ac., Dipl.Ac., M.S., is a nutritional and lifestyle consultant, holistic mindset mentor, and nationally board-certified acupuncturist. Using natural, drug-free techniques, Roberta opens the door to complete mind-body health. Roberta believes in empowering individuals to be their own best healers. Ready to take that step? Call 212-686-0939, or visit online at RobertaMittman.com.