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Sometimes a backache literally sneaks up behind you. The sudden pain is so severe you can't stand up straight, or, even worse, you can't sit down. In other cases you see it coming. Your upper or lower back hurts a little at first, then the discomfort gradually intensifies. The good news is that most backaches—whether they come on fast and furious or slow and steady—last less than a few weeks. And there's plenty you can do to speed recovery. But unfortunately, for about 10% of sufferers the pain persists. "In these cases you may have to explore several different treatments before you discover what helps," says Paul J. Lynch, M.D., cofounder of Arizona Pain Specialists in Scottsdale.
Almost all women deal with an aching back at some point before turning 50, so it's key that you know how to get relief. Surprisingly, simple treatments and at-home remedies may be just as effective as surgery—or even more so.