How Can I Tell If My Back Pain Is Serious
You should get medical care right away if:
You are older than 50
The pain was caused by an injury such as a fall or car crash
You have trouble sleeping because of the pain
You lose weight without trying or have a fever, chills, or a history of cancer
You have trouble urinating or controlling your bowels
You Were In A Car Accident
Weve probably all be there: were in a minor fender-bender or some small impact car accident. We may feel a bit jarred, but our body feels fine. So we just continue on. In most cases, things turn out okay. However, it is important to know that a seemingly small injury can indeed worsen over time especially injuries to the neck or back.
Conditions that may arise from a car accident include:
Back and neck injuries: including disc injuries, spine injuries, fractures, and sprains
Soft tissue injuries: including bruising, sprains, and tearing torn ligaments, muscles, and tendons.
Whiplash: symptoms include back and neck pain, headaches, and tinnitus
It is therefore recommended that if youre in a car accident and you feel any pain that you are checked out by a doctor. Ignoring back pain can lead to serious and often unnecessary complications.
What Can Cause Lower Back Pain
Most acute low back pain is mechanical in nature, meaning that there is a disruption in the way the components of the back fit together and move. Some examples of mechanical causes of low back pain include:
- Skeletal irregularities such as scoliosis , lordosis , kyphosis , and other congenital anomalies of the spine.
- Spina bifida which involves the incomplete development of the spinal cord and/or its protective covering and can cause problems involving malformation of vertebrae and abnormal sensations and even paralysis.
- Sprains , strains , and spasms
- Traumatic Injury such as from playing sports, car accidents, or a fall that can injure tendons, ligaments, or muscle causing the pain, as well as compress the spine and cause discs to rupture or herniate.
- Intervertebral disc degeneration which occurs when the usually rubbery discs wear down as a normal process of aging and lose their cushioning ability.
- Spondylosis the general degeneration of the spine associated with normal wear and tear that occurs in the joints, discs, and bones of the spine as people get older.
- Arthritis or other inflammatory disease in the spine, including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis as well as spondylitis, an inflammation of the vertebrae.
Nerve and spinal cord problems
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What To Do If You Suspect Something Else
Theres only one major tiphere: See a doctor, whether it is your primary care physician or aspecialist. Each condition that mimics spinal problems comes with its own treatments,but the first step is an accurate diagnosis. For example, a nerve test such aselectromyography can help a doctor spot neuropathy, and a blood-flow testsuch as the ankle-brachial index can distinguish between spinal stenosisand peripheral arterial disease.
Its so important to look atall of your symptoms and history and do a thorough examination, Dr. Khalafsays. Its how we can tell the difference between a back issue and a medicalcondition.
How To Relieve Back Pain
The following tips may help reduce your back pain and speed up your recovery:
- stay as active as possible and try to continue your daily activities this is 1 of the most important things you can do, as resting for long periods is likely to make the pain worse
- try exercises and stretches for back pain other activities such as walking, swimming, yoga and pilates may also be helpful
- take anti-inflammatory painkillers, such as ibuprofen remember to check the medicine is safe for you to take and ask a pharmacist if you’re not sure
- use hot or cold compression packs for short-term relief you can buy these from a pharmacy, or a hot water bottle or a bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a cloth or towel will work just as well
Although it can be difficult, it helps if you stay optimistic and recognise that your pain should get better. People who manage to stay positive despite their pain tend to recover quicker.
Back pain usually gets better on its own within a few weeks or months and you may not need to see a doctor or other healthcare professional.
But it’s a good idea to get help if:
- the pain does not start to improve within a few weeks
- the pain stops you doing your day-to-day activities
- the pain is very severe or gets worse over time
- you’re worried about the pain or struggling to cope
If you see a GP they will ask about your symptoms, examine your back and discuss possible treatments.
They may refer you to a specialist doctor or a physiotherapist for further help.
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Final Thoughts: Recognize When Back Pain Is A Significant Problem
Here are some indications that you should visit a doctor, per the Mayo Clinic:
The discomfort is caused by a blow, fall, or some other sudden event.
Your discomfort accompanies bladder or bowel difficulties
The presence of a persistent and worsening fever.
The discomfort is accompanied by unexplained weight loss.
Seek medical advice from your doctor when you have back pain. They will issue the diagnosis that will offer you the relief you need.
How Do You Spot The Back Pain Signals
The list of signs and symptoms can feel daunting. However, the crucial thing to do is observe your symptoms and focus on the way you are feeling. Also, dont forget to notice the symptoms that result beyond back pain such as bowel function or leg pain as these can be signals for something severe.
Apart from this, based on the age factor, there are several other signs that one should not fail to notice.
- Degenerative disc disease
- This kind of ailment can cause severe pain in your spine. Also, in older adults, lumbar arthritis is a common condition that causes lower back pain. Such kind conditions are commonly the result of age and can be also described as wear-and-tear conditions.
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You Have Unexplained Weight Loss
If you experience sudden weight loss that can’t be explained by diet and lifestyle changes, then you should always pay attention to what your body is telling you. This is especially true when the unexplained weight loss is accompanied by back pain. See your doctor to rule out the possibility of a more severe condition, such as an infection or tumor.
Theres A Pain In Your Side
Oh, boy. Has anyone reading this ever had a kidney stone? If you have, youre well aware of the agony and the frustration of getting rid of it.
Which brings us to the next point. If you feel a sharp pain in the upper back and on your side, you should get checked out. Kidney stones often manifest these symptoms. Other possible signs of kidney stones: discomfort or tenderness while peeing, or brown- or red-hued urine. If you feel pain below the shoulder blades, you may have an issue with your gallbladder and should be seen by a doctor.
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Find Out How To Spot Red Flags That Can Indicate A Serious Condition
In many cases, back pain can be as commonplace as a mild headache, a sneeze here and there, or eye strain. In fact, non-specific low back pain is a frequent ailment. One study reports that the lifetime prevalence of chronic low back pain is as high as 84%, making ones chances of experiencing discomfort at one time or another pretty high.
Here’s how to tell if your back pain may be something serious
Then there are those other times, when the back pain just doesnt feel right and your gut is saying that something more is going on. Many people have been known to go to the emergency room when experiencing low back painin 2012, a study found that low back pain accounted for 3.15% of all emergency visits in the United States. When you consider how many conditions can land someone in the ER, that number is fairly substantial.
Lets say that youre experiencing a significant amount of back pain, wondering, How do I know if my back pain is serious? This guide will help you decide if it warrants a trip to your doctor or the emergency room.
Severe Back Pain Causes
If youre suffering from severe back problems, you may find yourself asking, Why do I have severe back pain? It could be a broad range of reasons that vary in severity and seriousness. These are a few potential causes of severe back pain that may require medical intervention to correct, and a few of them include:
These are only a few possible answers for what is going on with your back. See your doctor for confirmation of your condition and to seek treatment.
There are other conditions that persistent back pain could indicate, including certain types of cancer, like:
- Pancreatic Cancer
- Rectal Cancer
- Ovarian Cancer
In the case of cancers of the colon, rectum or ovaries, back pain is often a symptom that the cancer has metastasized and is spreading to other areas of the body, according to the American Cancer Society, so it should not be taken lightly.
Though back pain is an unlikely precursor to a serious illness, if youve tried making short-term changes mentioned above without receiving relief from your pain, talk to your doctor. Your doctor may be able to rule out some issues quickly, but other times additional testing may be required to make a definitive diagnosis and treatments will vary greatly from one condition to the next.
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What Are The Signs Of A Back Injury
Signs you may have injured your back include:
- pain or tenderness
- pain that worsens with movement, coughing, sneezing or laughing
- stiffness or difficulty moving
- pain that radiates down one or both legs
However, back pain has many causes. It could be caused by a disease such as osteoarthritis or osteoporosis, your age, physical fitness, smoking, being overweight, or the type of work you do.
It is important to find out the cause of your symptoms so they can be treated properly.
The Big Three Signs That You Should Investigate For An Ominous Cause Of Persistent Low Back Pain
You shouldnt worry about low back pain until three conditions have been met:
The presence of the big three does not confirm that something horrible is going on. It only means that you need to check carefully.
Andy Whitfield as Spartacus
At his physical peak, not long before getting sick. The first sign of his cancer was steadily worsening back pain. He may have already been in pain at this time.
The story of actor Andy Whitfield is a disturbing and educational example of a case that met these conditions for sure the first two, and probably the third as well if we knew the details. Whitfield was the star of the hit TV show Spartacus . The first sign of the cancer that killed him in 2011 was steadily worsening back pain. Its always hard to diagnose a cancer that starts this way, but Whitfield was in the middle of intense physical training to look the part of historys most famous gladiator. Back pain didnt seem unusual at first, and some other symptoms may have been obscured. Weight loss could have even seemed like a training victory at first! It was many long months before he was diagnosed not until the back pain was severe and constant. A scan finally revealed a large tumour pressing against his spine.
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When Should I Call My Healthcare Provider
See your healthcare provider if you have:
- Loss of bladder or bowel control with weakness in either leg. These symptoms need attention right away.
- Severe back or neck pain that does not decrease with medicine and rest
- Pain after an injury or a fall
- Weakness, numbness, or tingling in your legs or arms
- Fever of 100.4°F or higher, or as advised by your healthcare provider
- Unintentional weight loss
Your Doctor May Want To Order Some Studies:
Diagnostic Studies: Depending on the most likely concern, your doctor may order any of a number of basic laboratory studies to detect anemia, inflammation, and elevated levels of proteins or markers in your system. Urinalysis may reveal blood, bacteria or reveal a renal stone.
In infections, specific tests can reveal the presence of infectious agents before the actual source is revealed. A TB skin test should be placed, if you have traveled anywhere that that disease is common, or have simply been around someone who has had the disease.
X-rays and Imaging: Some problems are only visualized on x-rays when significant bone destruction has occurred. A bone scan may be necessary to identify fractures, infections or tumors in their earliest phase. More often, MRI can screen the whole spine, and shows the soft tissue elements inside and outside the spinal column.
However, among patients with a recent osteoporotic spine fracture, x-rays are the best way to quickly and accurately detect a new fracture and determine how much collapse has occurred.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Lower Back Pain
Symptoms of lower back pain can come on suddenly or appear gradually. Sometimes, pain occurs after a specific event, such as bending to pick something up. Other times, you may not know what caused the pain.
Pain may be sharp or dull and achy, and it may radiate to your bottom or down the back of your legs . If you strain your back during an activity, you may hear a pop when it happened. Pain is often worse in certain positions and gets better when you lie down.
Other symptoms of lower back pain include:
- Stiffness: It may be tough to move or straighten your back. Getting up from a seated position may take a while, and you might feel like you need to walk or stretch to loosen up. You may notice decreased range of motion.
- Posture problems: Many people with back pain find it hard to stand up straight. You may stand crooked or bent, with your torso off to the side rather than aligned with your spine. Your lower back may look flat instead of curved.
- Muscle spasms: After a strain, muscles in the lower back can spasm or contract uncontrollably. Muscle spasms can cause extreme pain and make it difficult or impossible to stand, walk or move.
What Can I Do To Help With The Pain
Try not to do things that make the pain worse, like sitting for a long time, lifting heavy objects, or bending or twisting.
Stick to your normal activities as much as you can. Gentle exercise like walking helps you get better more quickly.
Some over-the-counter medicines can help pain or swelling. These include ibuprofen , naproxen , and acetaminophen . Your doctor may give you medicine to help with pain or muscle spasms.
Try using heating pads or taking a warm bath or shower.
Your doctor can show you some gentle exercises to help stretch your back and make the muscles stronger.
A physical therapist, massage therapist, or chiropractor may help with your pain and make you feel better.
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When Back Pain Suggests Something Worse
Back pain, whether it’s low back pain, neck pain or pain up between the shoulder blades, affects so many of us that that almost everyone has had an ache or pain that has made them worry. Since the common causes of back and neck pain are typically age-related wear-and-tear changes or minor injuries, 90% of people improve with simple supportive care – rest, anti-inflammatory medications, and physical therapy. However, when pain persists, or presents in an unusual way, you may begin to worry that the pain is coming from something more serious.
While serious, unrecognized diseases are very uncommon causes of back pain, there are some disorders that can seriously impact your health if they aren’t recognized early enough. These kinds of disorders almost always offer a few clear clues to their diagnosis, however. A careful history and physical examination, looking for specific signs and symptoms, and properly selected diagnostic studies, will allow your physicians to confidently rule out important underlying diseases.
There are a few warning signs you should recognize and bring to your doctor’s attention:
What If I Dont Want Surgery For My Back Pain
Fortunately, most people with back pain dont need surgery. We usually take a conservative approach first, using a wide variety of nonsurgical spine treatments, said Dr. Guo. For example, I might send you to physical therapy or chiropractic therapy. I might recommend medications such as anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants, or some nerve-pain medications. We offer injection therapy, including epidural injections, joint injections, and nerve blocks and ablation if your back pain fails to improve with the conservative treatments. Chances are, one of these approaches will help reduce your back pain and improve your function and quality of life.
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