Low Back Pain Diagnosis
Getting diagnosed with a specific cause of low back pain is the first step to getting treatment. If you land in your doctors office hoping for back pain relief, theyll use a variety of diagnostic tools and methods, such as:
A thorough medical history including any recent injuries, other diagnoses, family history of disease, and your job, activities and other lifestyle considerations
Physical exams, which may include manipulating the painful area or reflex or other neurological tests
Electromyography, which measures muscle and nerve function
ImagingX-rays can show bone spurs and damage to bone, while CT scans and MRIs can depict damage to soft tissue like discs or ligaments
How Is Back Pain Evaluated And Diagnosed
In many cases, your healthcare provider may get all the information they need from interviewing you about your symptoms, health history and lifestyle and then doing an exam. However, sometimes image tests are necessary. These may include:
- A medical spine provider who specializes in back pain.
- An orthopaedic provider who specializes in bones and joints.
Your healthcare provider may also recommend a therapist or psychiatrist if youre struggling to cope with your pain.
Urgent Advice: Phone 111 If:
- there has been a new, significant trauma within the last 7 days, for example a fall from height or direct blow to the back
You have experienced a new onset of the following symptoms:
- loss of feeling/pins and needles between your inner thighs or genitals
- numbness in or around your back passage or buttocks
- altered feeling when using toilet paper to wipe yourself
- increasing difficulty when you try to urinate
- increasing difficulty when you try to stop or control your flow of urine
- loss of sensation when you pass urine
- leaking urine or recent need to use pads
- not knowing when your bladder is either full or empty
- inability to stop a bowel movement or leaking
- loss of sensation when you pass a bowel motion
- loss sensation in genitals during sexual intercourse
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Techniques For Good Posture:
- Sit in a firm chair with armrests to relieve pressure in your back and shoulders.
- Keep your upper back straight and shoulders relaxed. Keep stomach muscles pulled in, and maintain the proper curve in your lower back. You can do this by tightening your stomach and buttocks. Some people are more comfortable sitting with the back of the chair at a 15- to 20-degree angle. A small cushion behind the lower back to maintain the natural curve of the back also can be quite helpful.
- Keep your knees slightly higher than your hips.
- Use a footstool or book under your feet if necessary.
- Keep your feet flat on the floor or other surface.
- Don’t sit for a long period of time. Stand up every now and then to stretch tight muscles and give them a chance to relax.
- Stand with weight equal on both feet.
- Avoid locking your knees.
- Ease tension in your back by placing one foot on a footstool.
- If you stand for long periods of time, wear flat or low-heeled shoes.
- Keep your back straight by tightening your stomach muscles and buttocks.
Lie on your side with your knees bent.
- If more comfortable, place a pillow between your knees while sleeping on your side.
- If you sleep on your back, ask your doctor or physical therapist if placing pillows under your knees would help your lower back pain or make it worse.
- Use a firm mattress.
When To See A Spine Specialist For Chronic Back Pain
Sometimes back pain comes on quick, and you know exactly what caused it. After some stretching, resting and pain relievers, you’ll remember to bend with your knees next time.
But, other times, people experiencing back pain are often left thinking: I don’t even remember when the pain started or what I did to cause it. The reality is that the source of you back pain may not always be evident which can also make it hard to know when it’s time to see an expert.
Dr. Hwang says the following five signs likely indicate that it’s time to see a spine specialist for your back pain:
1. Your pain is severe. While some back pain is only mild to moderate, severe back pain is when your pain is constant, intense or gets worse when you’re resting or at night.
2. Your pain is persistent. If your back pain lasts longer than three months, it’s considered chronic and may require a tailored treatment plan.
3. Your pain isn’t isolated to your back. If your pain is traveling down your leg, you have numbness or weakness in your hips or legs, or you’re experiencing tingling in your legs and feet, it may be a sign that there’s pressure on your spine.
4. Everyday activities have become difficult. If your back pain is already affecting routine activities, don’t let it get so debilitating that it keeps you from doing things you enjoy.
- Find a Houston Methodist spine specialist that can treat your back pain at a location convenient for you
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When & How To Seek Medical Care
If low back pain lasts for longer than one to two weeks, seek medical care. First, make an appointment with your primary care physician.
Seek immediate medical attention if any of the following symptoms are present in addition to back pain:
- Severe abdominal pain
- Unexplained fever
- Loss of control of your bowels or bladder
Can Back Pain Be Prevented
Recurring back pain resulting from improper body mechanics may be prevented by avoiding movements that jolt or strain the back, maintaining correct posture, and lifting objects properly. Many work-related injuries are caused or aggravated by stressors such as heavy lifting, contact stress , vibration, repetitive motion, and awkward posture.Recommendations for keeping ones back healthy
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Injections For Lower Back Pain
Injections are also administered in treatment of lower back pain. Types of lower back pain injections include the following:
- Botox Injection â This type of injection is shot directly into the back muscle to alleviate lower back pain and treat the condition.
- Amticon Vulsants â This is also prescribed for treating lower back pain.
- Anesthetic or Steroid Injections â This type of injection is prescribed for lower back pain to provide short time relief.
When Should I See A Doctor If I Have Lower Back Pain
In many cases lower back pain stops on its own. But if it doesnt, here are some guidelines on when you may want to start seeking professional help:
- If the pain lasts four weeks or longer
- If the pain keeps getting worse as time goes by
- If you are experiencing other symptoms, such as fever, major weight loss or weight gain, loss of function or weakness in extremities, bladder problems, etc.
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How Do You Know What Type Of Back Pain You Have
Regina Blake | Answered March 21, 2021
Your physician will take a thorough medical history, discuss your symptoms, and conduct a physical exam in order to accurately diagnose the cause of back pain. Sometimes diagnostic testssuch as X-rays, MRI scans, or diagnostic injectionsare needed when trying to locate or confirm the underlying cause of pain.
Make Sciatica Go Away
Sciatica is a common form of back pain that occurs when the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back to the feet, becomes compressed. Sciatica can be caused by a number of different factors, including a herniated disc, spinal stenosis, or a pregnancy. Symptoms of sciatica can include pain in the lower back or buttocks, numbness in the legs or feet, and weakness in the legs.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of how long does sciatica pain last. The length of time that sciatica pain lasts will depend on the underlying cause of the condition and the severity of the symptoms. In most cases, however, sciatica pain will improve with time and conservative treatment methods.
If you are experiencing sciatica pain, there are several things that you can do to help ease your symptoms and speed up your healing process. Over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen or naproxen can help to reduce inflammation and pain.
Physical therapy can also be helpful in easing symptoms and promoting healing. Your physical therapist can work with you to develop a rigorous exercise routine that will help to strengthen your core muscles and reduce pressure on your sciatic nerve.
In some cases, steroid injections or epidural injections may be necessary to provide relief from severe symptoms. If your symptoms do not improve with conservative treatment methods, talk to your doctor about these more aggressive options.
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How Does My Back Work
To understand your back pain, its helpful to know a little about how your back works.
Your back is a complex structure that provides support for your pelvis, legs, ribcage, arms and skull. The spine is made up of bones called vertebrae that are stacked together to form a loose S-shaped column.
Each vertebra is cushioned by spongy tissue called intervertebral discs. These discs act as shock absorbers and give your spine its flexibility. Vertebrae are joined by pairs of small joints known as facet joints. A mesh of connective tissue called ligaments holds the spine together.
Complex layers of muscle provide structural support and allow you to move. Your spinal cord runs through the centre of the vertebral column and connects your brain to the rest of your body.
How Long Does Lower Back Pain Usually Last
The back is made up of the spine, nerves, muscles, and tendons and, therefore, the specific cause for pain in this part of the body is not always clear. Most instances of lower back pain are mechanical or non-organic. Mechanical lower back pain means that the pain originates from the spine or its supporting structures instead of from something more serious such as inflammation , infections, fractures, or cancer.
Some lower back pain is temporary and self resolves, while others might require medical attention. If you experience lower back pain for more than a month, you should see your primary care practitioner about it.
Depending on how long the pain lasts, lower back pain can be classified as follows:
Acute lower back pain
The pain lasts for a period of a few days up to four weeks. It usually subsides on its own as the body heals. Whilst most acute lower back pain episodes are short-lived, some continue to experience pain for a prolonged period.
Subacute lower back pain
The pain lasts from four to twelve weeks. Here, you should seek medical intervention for your lower back pain.
Chronic lower back pain
The pain lasts for more than twelve weeks and can be quite severe.
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Pain That Extends To The Lower Extremities
Your lower back pain may also extend to the lower extremities if a pinched nerve causes it. You might have sciatica if the ache affects your lower back, hips, buttocks, and legs. Sciatica is the pinching of the sciatic nerve, which spans the end of the spinal cord to the knees.
Aside from pain, you may also feel discomfort, especially at the back of the affected thigh and leg. If your sciatica is severe, the symptoms may extend to the foot and ankle.
When Is Not Helpful
Back pain is one of the most common reasons why people visit a health care provider. The good news is that the pain often goes away on its own, and people usually recover in a week or two. Many people want to stay in bed when their back hurts. For many years, getting bed rest was the normal advice. But current studies recommend no bed rest at all and stress that staying in bed longer than 48 hours not only wont help but it may, in fact, actually delay your recovery. Heres why:
Staying in bed wont help you get better faster.If youre in terrible pain, lying down for a day to help ease the distress may seem like a good idea, but moderating your activities and staying active in a limited way is a more effective way to control your symptoms. Research suggests that if you can find comfortable positions and keep moving, you may not need bed rest at all.Research shows that:
- Lying down longer than a day or two day isnt helpful for relieving back pain.
- People can recover more quickly without any bed rest.
- The sooner you start moving, even a little bit, or return to activities such as walking, the faster you are likely to improve.
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Pinched Nerve In Shoulder
A pinched nerve in your shoulder can be limiting in many ways . We use our shoulders for many tasks, such as picking up items, sleeping comfortably, driving a car, etc Again, you dont realize how much you use your shoulder until theres a problem with it. If youre experiencing a sharp pain when youve noticed the nerve pain, its likely to be a pinched nerve problem in your shoulder. Injuries, arthritis, and tendinitis can be blamed for a pinched nerve in the shoulder. Addressing the issue with a medical professional if it persists for more than a few days to a week is a good idea.
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Do Nerves Regenerate After Back Surgery
The onset of nerve recovery will start immediately after the nerve is decompressed. However, nerves heal at a slow rate, approximately 1 mm a day or an inch per month. Although many patients notice an immediate difference in symptoms after surgery, results can vary. This does not mean that surgery was unsuccessful.
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Recovering From A Lower Back Injury
Recovering from a lower back injury can take anywhere from a week to a year, and unfortunately we see patients who have been suffering for much longer than this. You see, it all depends on the lower back condition causing your symptoms. Thankfully we have some fantastic technology in the clinic, supported by evidence and research. Each treatment alone is great. What sets us apart is the way in which we combine these treatments to enhance the results for our patients. For most of our patients, many of whom have severe lower back pain, get good recovery in as little as 3 to 4 weeks. Some of the worst cases require a little longer, up to 12 weeks or so in these cases is typical. At your consultation, our team will be able to go into detail the likely timescales to recovery.
If youre suffering from a lower back injury and need help, contact us today using the form below to see just how The Mayfair Clinic could help get you back to normal.
Complementary And Alternative Techniques Include:
- Acupuncture is moderately effective for chronic low back pain. It involves inserting thin needles into precise points throughout the body and stimulating them , which may cause the body to release naturally occurring painkilling chemicals such as endorphins, serotonin, and acetylcholine.
- Behavioral approaches include:
- Biofeedback involves attaching electrodes to the skin and using an electromyography machine that allows people to become aware of and control their breathing, muscle tension, heart rate, and skin temperature people regulate their response to pain by using relaxation techniques
- Cognitive therapy involves using relaxation and coping techniques to ease back pain
Spinal injections include:Trigger point injections can relax knotted muscles that may contribute to back pain. An injection or series of injections of a local anesthetic and often a corticosteroid drug into the trigger point can lessen or relieve pain.
Conservative Treatments Often Work
Most people with pinched nerves respond well to conservative treatment within 6 to 12 weeks. Even if your symptoms are severe and debilitating, its possible to notice improvements over time. However, the source of nerve irritation will affect how well conservative care works.
For example, one study found that cervical radiculopathy symptoms related to a herniated disc improved considerably within 4 to 6 months. Fortunately, there are many conservative treatment options that could provide welcome relief from pain associated with a pinched nerve. Some of these include:
Short periods of rest
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What To Do About Lower Back Pain
It is prudent for you to visit your doctor if you have been experiencing recurring and persistent low back pain. The doctor will carry out examinations on you and recommend the right treatment procedure for you. There are two major treatment options for lower back pain. We have the surgical treatment and non surgical treatment options. Surgical treatment for lower back pain can only be carried out in severe cases with evidence of structural changes that require corrective surgical measures and where nerves are badly damaged or wearing out rapidly. Non surgical option is whereby the physician will try to alleviate the pain without any surgery. Non surgical treatment is administered in a number of ways which includes pain medication, application of heat or ice, manual manipulation, exercises and therapeutic massage.
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