A backache or back pain refers to pain that occurs anywhere from the hips up to the neck. Pain centered in the area from the ribs to the hips is normally referred to as lower back pain. Backaches are among the most common of all health complaints after infections like the common cold, affecting nearly ninety percent of people at some point of time in their lives.

The back consists of a complicated interplay of vertebrae of the spine, bones, muscles, and tissue. The spine is quite literally the lifeline of the body and the 24 bones of the spine or vertebrae are stacked on top of each other to form a flexible and strong center. In between the bones of the spine are tissue and cartilage, which may rupture, erode, or ‘slip’ due to injury or degradation and deterioration with aging. When this happens, you will experience severe pain.

Backaches tend to build up over time and are caused by a number of factors. The two areas of the spine that are the weakest – at the nape of the neck and the base of the back are the most susceptible to injury. Since, there is a symbiotic relationship between the muscles, nerves, and bones in the back, injury or discomfort in one area can have a cascading effect to other parts of the body as well.

Backaches that cause severe pain, restricting mobility should be treated very seriously as they may be indicative of a severe injury or condition that requires medical attention. Milder backaches that are simply a source of pain and discomfort, or chronic backaches can be managed to a large extent with home treatments and modifications to your lifestyle. Persistent backaches, no matter how mild, should never be neglected however.

Symptoms of Backache

It is rather impossible to miss the symptoms of a backache. Back pain can start off as small twinges and cramps in specific areas in the back and then escalate to full blown radiating pain that severely restricts any movement. Backaches can get worse with sudden jerky movements, changing positions from sitting to standing or sleeping, and even when sneezing or coughing. A backache could also involve other symptoms like a feeling of numbness in your legs or trouble while urinating or during a bowel movement. In some cases, back pain is noticeable only when moving and does not interfere with sleep, whereas in other cases, it may be a chronic pain that does not let up through the day or night.

Some symptoms of a backache include:

  • Pain in the middle or lower back
  • Pain around the waist or hips
  • Radiating pain in the back and along the arms or legs
  • Difficulty in urinating and bowel movements
  • Loss of control over urination and bowel movements
  • Difficulty in moving about that may require bed rest
  • Numbness of legs and neck

In most cases, a backache will resolve in just a couple of days. However, if you find yourself suffering from back pain for more than a few days or if you suffer from pain that does not respond to over-the-counter pain relief medications, it may be better to consult with a doctor to diagnose the condition properly. A doctor will be able to identify the exact source of the pain and make an accurate diagnosis with x-rays or MRIs if needed. More often than not, the pain is indicative of stress and strain, rather than any serious problem.

If you experience any of the following symptoms, contact your doctor immediately:

  • Backache is accompanied by high fever
  • Loss of control over your bladder or bowel movements
  • Nausea and vomiting along with numbness in the legs
  • Backache is caused due to an accident or injury
  • Any movement is unbearable
  • There is a weakness in the legs that has developed along with the backache
  • Pain worsens when pressure is applied to the back and the skin on the back is red in color
  • The back pain radiates down the legs
  • Sudden weight loss preceding the backache
  • Backache persists for more than two weeks
  • Pain does not lessen with bed rest
  • You are above 50 years or below 20 years of age
  • You are on steroid medication for another illness or condition
  • You are HIV positive or have been using drugs
  • You have a medical history of tumors

Causes of Backache

There are a variety of factors that can cause backaches ranging from physical to psychological. Some common causes of backache include:

  • Injury or trauma caused by falls, sudden movements or lifting of heavy objects.
  • Repeated stress on the back due to bad posture and habits such as wearing high heels or sitting at a desk the whole day.
  • Chronic illnesses that demand bed rest and lead to poor muscle tone.
  • Pregnancy that puts extra pressure on the spine and the muscles of the back.
  • Fatigue and lethargy.
  • Obesity leads to backaches due to the extra weight and pressure put on the spine, muscles and joints of the body.
  • Mental problems such a depression can also cause backaches.
  • Problems with the feet, knees, and ankles that can put extra pressure on the back.
  • Lack of exercise that keeps the spine and back strong and flexible.
  • Poor nutrition leads to obesity that results in back pain.
  • Diseases such as kidney problems, urinary tract infections, kidney stones, prostate issues, gynecological conditions and arthritis can all contribute to the development of a backache.
  • Conditions such as gout and constipation can also cause backaches.
  • Herniated discs or a disc prolapse caused by strain on the spine can lead to acute backaches.
  • Fractures of the backbone caused by accidents can compress the spine irregularly and lead to long-term damage to the back.
  • Spinal stenosis involves the compression of the spinal column due to aging and results in backaches, typically of a chronic nature.
  • Certain deformities of the spine such as acute curvature or deviation of the spine can put severe stress on the back and spine and give rise to chronic backaches.
  • Athletes are prone to backaches due to rigorous exercising and training, often over exerting their bodies.

Remedies for Backache

Home remedies for back pain can be extremely useful, but you should differentiate between a mild backache and one that is serious. Backache remedies can come in handy when you suffer from the occasional backache, providing some much needed relief, and facilitating a return to normalcy. While home remedies for back pain relief are useful when faced with chronic back pain as well, in such cases home treatments can only be used as a backup to conventional treatment. There are several backache remedies for pain ranging from mild to acute. These include the following:

  • A simple backache cure is to watch your posture at all times. Sitting hunched over a desk the whole day or slouched on a couch will contribute towards a weakened spine and backaches. Keep your back straight and your shoulders back and tuck that tummy in for the best results.
  • Backache relief can be achieved with the application of heat on to the affected area. Use a hot water bag, a heated pad or warmed up wheat bags to reduce pain and discomfort. Some people may prefer a cold compress especially in the case of sprains and muscle injury.
  • Over-the-counter painkillers may help reduce pain and swelling in case of an injury or strain, but should never be relied on for recurrent back pain, as they will simply mask the symptoms that could be indicative of a serious problem.
  • Sleep on a firm bed with a proper pillow. A luxuriously soft mattress may seem extremely inviting, but it isn’t the best thing for your back.
  • Exercise diligently and move about slowly. Staying in one position for too long can aggravate the condition. Chronic back pain can be reduced through yoga. There are several yoga asanas that target the back and spine and make them stronger and more flexible.
  • Some excellent home remedies for back pain include the use of oil made with three to four cloves of garlic fried in coconut or mustard oil and rubbed on the back after it has cooled. This should provide instant relief from the pain. Leave the oil on your back for a few hours before washing off. Lemon juice mixed with salt and consumed twice daily also helps treat backaches. For much the same reason, vitamin C supplements can boost the immune system and strengthen the back.
  • Another home remedy for back pain relief involves applying raw potato on the affected area. This is especially helpful for lower back pain.

Diet for Backache

While your diet may have no direct bearing on a backache, it does have a direct influence on your general health. Poor nutrition with a low supply of nutrients essential for skeletal and tissue health would put you at a higher risk of developing bone and joint disorders, as well as spinal problems and backaches. It is recommended that people suffering from backaches should have a balanced diet that consists of plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Raw salads, lightly steamed vegetables, fresh juices, and milk all help to improve your overall health. A healthy diet will also typically be low in foods that contain empty calories, which are high in fat and sugars, thus helping reduce weight and reducing pressure on the spine. Proteins, vitamin C, and foods high in vitamin D and calcium all help strengthen bones and muscles. Avoid all fatty, spicy, over-processed foods as well as too much tea, coffee, alcohol and tobacco. The changes to your diet should also be combined with regular exercise.

Suggestion for Backache

Some simple precautions will also help to minimize the risk of backaches and help facilitate recovery if you suffer from a backache:

  • Lift objects carefully by bending at the knees and not from the waist, to reduce pressure on the back and prevent any injury.
  • Avoid sitting or standing in one position for long periods of time. Take regular breaks to move about and stretch.
  • Make sure your workstation and chair is ergonomically designed to support your back and neck properly.
  • Make it a point to indulge in some physical activity daily. Taking up a non strenuous fitness regime like yoga or aerobics will help to strengthen your back and keep it flexible.
  • Your footwear is also extremely important, so trade in those stilettos for some trendy, if not as stylish, flats.


  1. J.C. Tan, E.B. Roux, J. Dunand, T.L. Vischer, Role of physical therapy in the management of common low back pain, Baillière's Clinical Rheumatology, Volume 6, Issue 3, October 1992, Pages 629-655, ISSN 0950-3579, 10.1016/S0950-3579(05)80131-1. umatology, Volume 6, Issue 3, October 1992, Pages 629-655, ISSN 0950-3579, 10.1016/S0950-3579(05)80131-1.

Backache - Frequently asked questions
3 Backache remedies suggested by our users
Fetal Position
suggested by Sara on Thursday, January 31, 2008

If you're having lower back pain, simply curl up into the fetal position and hug your knees up towards your chest. Lay this way for a few minutes. It opens up the space between your vertebra, relieving pain.

Back Pain!
suggested by james on Sunday, December 30, 2007

According to Yogis, one can cure back pain in as little as 3 days. The cure: Take a comfortable chair, place your right foot on your left lap, now rub your thumb up the innermost part of your foot, from heel to the ball of your foot, massaging out any sore spots. Do for 3 to 5 mins and then switch feet. If you're inflexible or your hands aren't too strong request someone else to do it. Dr. Remedy!

SIMPLE backache/sciatica CURE
suggested by joseph on Friday, December 21, 2007

Before retiring, fold a bath towel lengthwise 3 times. Wrap it around your waist snugly and tie with a sash. Go to sleep. Do this every night. This procedure cured me.