Urgent Advice: Ask For An Urgent Gp Appointment Or Get Help From 111 If:
You have back pain and:
- a high temperature
- you’ve lost weight without trying to
- there’s a lump or swelling in your back or your back has changed shape
- the pain does not improve after resting or is worse at night
- the pain is made worse when sneezing, coughing or pooing
- the pain is coming from the top of your back , rather than your lower back
Signs That Its Time To Call A Doctor For Your Back Pain
Most people have experienced back pain at some point in their lives. Its actually the leading cause of disability worldwide and the most common reason people call out of work. Back pain can come in many different forms, ranging from a dull ache that lasts only a few days to severe pain that lasts for weeks.
Depending on the intensity of the pain, there are many treatments you can try at home to help. But how do you know when its time to stop home remedies and see a physician?
If any of the following applies to your back pain, then its time to make an appointment with a doctor as soon as possible.
What Does It Mean If Lower Back Pain Is Shooting Into Legs
Lower back pain can radiate to other parts of the body: up or down from its place of origin. Sometimes lower back pain can be on one side of the back, which is also normal.
If the pain is shooting from the lower back into one or both legs, it could be sciatica , but its not always the case. There are many parts in the lower back that may cause the pain to radiate into the legs, such as facet joints, sacroiliac joints, muscles or inflammation of the bursa.
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Family Doctor Or General Practitioner
Most back pain problems are first addressed in the office of an individuals general practitioner or primary care doctor. This is because it is often a pain problem that goes on for a length of time prior to the individual asking for help with it.
The most likely course of treatment if your family doctor is prescribing it will be medication therapy and/or physical therapy regimens. Your general practitioner will likely not be as well appraised of treatments for specific back pain problems as their specialist counterparts, so they might opt to order some tests to confirm their suspicions and then use those findings to refer you to one of the specialists listed below.
How Do I Know My Back Pain Is Serious
Whether your back pain is intermittent, piercing or achy and constant, youre probably wondering if it should be a cause for concern. However, the severity of your symptoms isnt the only indicator of whether your back pain is serious.
For instance, you can experience intense pain from a pulled back muscle but this will usually go away after several days of treating it at home. But, with something like lumbar degenerative disc disease, you can experience a dull, moderate ache in your back, which wont necessarily be intense but could become worse over time if left untreated. In this case, youd want to see a doctor to discuss a long-term treatment plan.
If youre experiencing back pain, you should consider seeing a doctor if you have recently or are currently experiencing:
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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.
How Is Low Back Pain Treated
Most low back pain improves with self-care. This includes ice or heat and light activity such as walking. Use over-the-counter pain medicine as needed.
For severe symptoms or pain that continues after 2 weeks of self-care, see your doctor. You may benefit from other treatment, such as stronger medicine, exercises, or manual therapy.
There are a number of other treatments for back pain. You may need to try more than one to see what works best for you. Common treatments include acupuncture, massage, and yoga.
For chronic back pain, one type of treatment by itself may not help. The best plan is often a mix of treatments.
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How Is Back Pain Diagnosed
Your health professional will first assess your back pain. They may ask questions including:
- When did your back pain begin?
- What activities were you doing differently to normal before your back pain started?
- How would you describe the pain? Is there tingling or numbness?
- What makes the pain better or worse?
If your pain doesnt settle after a few weeks or starts getting worse, ask your doctor or other health care professional about other management options. You may be referred for tests if there is reason to suspect a more serious cause for your back pain.
Unnecessary tests can be expensive, and many investigations will show changes in your spine that reflect the normal passage of time, rather than damage to your spine.
Who Should Treat Your Back Pain
Many types of medical professionals treat back pain, and each has different training, skills, and specialties. So how do you know which specialist is best for helping to alleviate your back pain? Heres an overview of different back pain specialists and which type or team may be right for you.
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How To Ease Your Back Pain
Most back pain goes away on its own, but it may take some time. If your back pain just started, here are some ways to relieve, and possibly heal, your pain:
- Place cold packs on the painful area
- Use hot packs or a heating pad
- Take over-the-counter pain medication as needed
- Temporarily stop any activities or exercise that could make your pain worse, but dont rest all day
- Resume normal activities as soon as you can moving can help decrease your pain
- Make sure to get enough sleep and eat healthy foods
Can Lower Back Pain Be Related To Weather
If you feel like your lower back pain worsens on days when its cold or the weather is changing, you are not imagining things. Back pain can indeed be related to barometric pressure and outdoor temperature. Changes in pressure can sometimes cause pain in arthritic joints, including the spine. Muscles and joints in general react to the environment, which can make them stiffer and more likely to suffer an injury.
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When To Visit The Er For Back Pain
- When to Visit the ER for Back Pain
While many people tolerate occasional aches and pains in their back, severe back pain may indicate a larger problem. But how do you know if your back pain, or that of a loved one, has reached the point that it requires an emergency department visit?
If at any point you feel that your condition is serious enough that it cant wait for a visit with your primary care physician, you should visit the emergency department. However, if youre not sure whether your back pain requires emergency care, consider these guidelines.
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What Type Of Doctor Should I See For Back Pain
Until youve had to deal with back pain, it can be hard to understand just how much of a toll it can take on your daily routines. Back pain can make it difficult to do things as simple as standing up, walking around, and climbing stairs. If the time has come to seek treatment for ongoing back pain, you may be wondering where to turn. Of course, if youre experiencing a life- or limb-threatening condition, youll want to call 911 or get to the closest emergency room as soon as possible. But for non-emergency conditions, your best bet may be to consult with an orthopedist.
Many types of chronic back pain can be treated by orthopedists, preferably those who focus on the spine. Orthopedists are doctors who specialize in conditions affecting the musculoskeletal system, which encompasses the bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, tendons, and nerves. While some of these physicians practice general orthopedics, others focus on a subspecialty, with some devoting their entire career to conditions affecting the spine.
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Avoid Or Change Activities That Cause Pain
- Try to avoid too much bending, heavy lifting, or reaching. These movements put extra stress on your back.
- In bed, try lying on your side with a pillow between your knees. Or lie on your back on the floor with a pillow under your knees.
- When you sit, place a small pillow, a rolled-up towel, or a lumbar roll in the curve of your back for extra support.
- Try putting one foot up on a stool or changing positions every few minutes if you have to stand still for a period of time.
Do I Need To See A Doctor For My Back Pain
If youre still wondering if you should see a doctor for back pain, the short answer is yes. Going to the doctor for your back pain can help you find relief so you can enjoy life once again. At the Desert Institute for Spine Care , you can rest assured our doctors and staff will take good care of you.
At DISC, we believe every patient deserves compassionate, personalized care. We developed Personalized Pain Diagnostics to identify the pain generator and most accurate diagnosis. With PPM we can personalize and tailor the right treatment or surgical option for our patients. We begin by asking questions and listening carefully to your experience. We then investigate your symptoms further through an examination and imaging tests.
Once we develop ideas about your pain, we will discuss them honestly and clearly with you and invite you to ask questions. We want to ensure you feel comfortable and can make an informed decision about your treatment.
When youre ready, well apply the latest technology to treat your pain and help you restore your lifestyle.
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When To Seek Medical Attention For Back Pain
It can be difficult to know when to go to the doctor for back pain. Generally, there are two major indicators of when its time to visit a doctor:
1. If your back pain doesnt go away after a week or two, you should see your doctor. While its more likely your pain isnt a sign of a serious medical emergency, your doctor can give you an accurate diagnosis and start treatment.
2. If you have other symptoms that accompany your back pain, you might require medical attention. See your doctor immediately if youre experiencing back pain with symptoms like:
- Increasing weakness in your legs
- Severe stomach pain
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
A Recent Study On Chiropractic Care For Low Back Pain
A 2018 study published in JAMA Network Open is among the latest to weigh in on the pros and cons of chiropractic care for treating low back pain. Researchers enrolled 750 active-duty military personnel who complained of back pain. Half were randomly assigned to receive usual care while the other half received usual care plus up to 12 chiropractic treatments.
After six weeks of treatment, those assigned to receive chiropractic care:
- reported less pain intensity
- experienced less disability and more improvement in function
- reported higher satisfaction with their treatment
- needed less pain medicine.
While no serious side effects were reported, about 10% of those receiving chiropractic care described adverse effects . Five percent of those receiving usual care had similar complaints.
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Pay Attention To Body Mechanics And Posture
Body mechanics are the way you use your body. Posture is the way you sit or stand.
- Take extra care when you lift. When you must lift, bend your knees and keep your back straight. Avoid twisting, and keep the load close to your body.
- Stand or sit tall, with your shoulders back and your stomach pulled in to support your back.
Why Is Lower Back Pain Such A Common Problem
The bottom part of your back typically has just five vertebrae fewer than your neck and mid-back. And these vertebrae do a lot of heavy lifting! Your lower back is where your spine connects to your pelvis, bearing the weight of your upper body. This area experiences a lot of movement and stress, which may lead to wear, tear and injuries.
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Sciatica Treatment At Home
Many cases of sciatica will resolve in a few days. If you experience sciatica symptoms, you can:
Rest: Decreasing your activity can help minimize additional irritation of the sciatic nerve and give the area time to heal. Bedrest, however, is not recommended. Its best to get up and move around gently. Avoid any movements that lead to increased pain.
Stretch: Stretching exercises of the low back can help relieve nerve compression. Avoid twisting the back. Aim for slow, gradual stretches.
Use cold packs: Applying an ice pack to the irritated area can provide some relief. You can ice the area for 20 minutes at a time, a few times per day. Cold therapy is most helpful soon after symptoms begin.
Apply heat: If your symptoms have persisted for more than two or three days, try heat instead of cold. Use a heating pad or hot packs.
Take anti-inflammatory medication: Ibuprofen and naproxen are over-the-counter medicines that relieve pain and decrease inflammation.
How Is Back Pain Treated
You can do several things to manage back pain. A conversation with your doctor or physiotherapist can help address any concerns you may have and help you to better understand your treatment. Remember that not all information is trustworthy, so let your healthcare team know about treatments you are considering before you begin them.
Ways to manage back pain include the following:
Strong pain medication is not recommended for back pain. Research shows strong pain medication provides little benefit and can cause side effects such as drowsiness, sedation and/or dependence.
If you have severe back pain and your current medication is not adequately managing it, talk to your doctor about a suitable treatment plan. In some cases, your doctor may suggest an injection that can numb the pain such as an epidural injection, or a surgical procedure, such as a laminectomy to help manage your pain.
There are many other treatments to manage back pain, but they have not been well proven. These include:
- herbal medicines
- heat and cold therapy
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Causes Of Severe Back Pain
Though muscular strain is the most common cause of back pain, there are many possible causes, Dr. Gordon says, including:
- Compression Fractures due to osteoporosis
- Fractured vertebrae
- Herniated disc or degenerative disc disease
- Spinal cord tumor
Watch for these symptoms that warrant medical attention: pain accompanied by numbness or tingling in the arms or legs back swelling and redness , bowel or bladder problems or unintended weight loss, Dr. Gordon says.
Also, seek medical care if pain radiates down one or both legs, he says.
To determine the cause of chronic back pain, your doctor may order tests such as X-ray, magnetic resonance imaging , computed tomography scan, bone scan or electromyography, which is a test to diagnose neuromuscular abnormalities.
When Should I See My Doctor
If you have back pain and have lost feeling or movement in your limbs or are having problems controlling your bowels or bladder, call triple 000 immediately and ask for an ambulance.
You should see your doctor or other health care professional for further advice if:
- your pain bothers you
- your back pain doesnt improve after a few weeks or worsens
- you have symptoms such as weight loss, tingling or numbness in the legs, or problems with bladder and/or bowel control
- you have osteoporosis
You should see your doctor as soon as possible, if you have a history of cancer, are prone to infection, or use intravenous drugs.
For most people, back pain will resolve in a few weeks with appropriate self-care. After 2 months, 9 out of 10 people will recover from back pain.
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How Long Will You Sit In The Waiting Room
The length of the average ED visit for back pain is around 5 hours. Depending on the other cases that come in that day, you may sit for three hours without being seen by a medical provider.
For someone with back pain, sitting for that amount of time feels uncomfortable, worrying and frustrating.
We know pain is increased by fear, worry and uncertainty. If you suspect something bad is going on and no one can reassure you otherwise, it is very hard to relax and move normally. This guarding and compensation is very normal to see in people with back pain, and unfortunately it can cause your pain to feel worse.