Ellen Can’t Dance?

For the past two days TV talk show host Ellen Degeneres has been unable to do her trademark “dance through the audience.” The reason is that Emmy award winning actress/host is having trouble with her back- complaining of muscle spasms. As the star twittered: “Bad News: I don’t think I can dance today!! I’m sorry everybody I’m gonna try to find someone to dance for me.” She had contestants from So You think You Can Dance do the honors for her. Ellen fans may remember that in April 2007, Ellen had a more severe episode that had her doing the show from a hospital bed placed on the set. Guests got their own bed as well.

Back pain is no laughing matter. Back pain is one of the most common medical problems, affecting 8 out of 10 people sometime during their lives. Americans spend at least $50 billion each year on low back pain. It is the most common cause of job-related disability and leading contributor to missed work. Acute or short-term low back pain generally lasts from a few days to a few weeks. Most acute back pain is the result of trauma to the lower back or a disorder such as arthritis. Pain from trauma may be caused by a sports injury, work around the house or in the garden, or a sudden jolt such as a car accident or other stress on spinal bones and tissues.Symptoms may range from muscle ache to shooting or stabbing pain,limited flexibility and range of motion, or an inability to stand straight. Chronic back pain is pain that persists for more than 3months. It is often progressive and the cause can be difficult to determine.

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Most low back pain can be treated without surgery. Treatment involves using over-the-counter pain relievers to reduce discomfort and anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce inflammation.  The goal of treatment is to restore proper function and strength to the back, and prevent recurrence of the injury.  Medications are often used to treat acute and chronic low back pain. Effective pain relief may involve a combination of prescription drugs and over-the-counter remedies. Although the use of cold and hot compresses has never been scientifically proven to quickly resolve low back injury, compresses may help reduce pain and inflammation and allow greater mobility for some individuals.  Bed rest is recommended for only 1–2 days at most. Individuals should resume activities as soon as possible.  Exercise maybe the most effective way to speed recovery from low back pain and help strengthen back and abdominal muscles.   In the most serious cases,when the condition does not respond to other therapies, surgery may relieve pain caused by back problems or serious musculoskeletal injuries. (Source: NINDS)

In rare cases, back pain can signal a serious medical problem. See a doctor immediately if your back pain:

* Is constant or intense, especially at night or when you lie down
* Spreads down one or both legs, especially if the pain extends below the knee
* Causes weakness, numbness or tingling in one or both legs
* Causes new bowel or bladder problems
* Is associated with pain or pulsation (throbbing) in the abdomen, or fever
* Follows a fall, blow to your back or other injury
* Is accompanied by unexplained weight loss

For more information:

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Mark Boguski, M.D., Ph.D. is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and is a member of the Society for Participatory Medicine, "a movement in which networked patients shift from being mere passengers to responsible drivers of their health" and in which professional health care providers encourage "empowered patients" and value them as full partners in managing their health and wellness.

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