When To See A Specialist For Lower Back Pain
If you’re experiencing lower back pain that’s not responding to rest and self-care, it’s time to consider seeing a spine specialist.
“A spine specialist will likely perform a physical exam as well as one or more imaging scans to diagnose the root cause of your lower back pain. Depending on your diagnosis, he or she will then design a treatment plan aimed at alleviating your pain and preventing it from disrupting the everyday activities you enjoy,” says Dr. Palmer.
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.
How Common Is Lower Back Pain
Around four out of five people have lower back pain at some point in their lives. Its one of the most common reasons people visit healthcare providers.
Some people are more likely to have lower back pain than others. Risk factors for lower back pain include:
- Age: People over 30 have more back pain. Disks wear away with age. As the disks weaken and wear down, pain and stiffness can result.
- Weight: People who are obese or carry extra weight are more likely to have back pain. Excess weight puts pressure on joints and disks.
- Overall health: Weakened abdominal muscles cant support the spine, which can lead to back strains and sprains. People who smoke, drink alcohol excessively or live a sedentary lifestyle have a higher risk of back pain.
- Occupation and lifestyle: Jobs and activities that require heavy lifting or bending can increase the risk of a back injury.
- Structural problems: Severe back pain can result from conditions, such as scoliosis, that change spine alignment.
- Disease: People who have a family history of osteoarthritis, certain types of cancer and other disease have a higher risk of low back pain.
- Mental health: Back pain can result from depression and anxiety.
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Muscles Cause Pain For A Very Important Reason
Muscles are continuously subject to cessation in their blood flow, usually as a result of contraction or compression. When this occurs for too long, ischemia and eventually infarction will occur. Infarction will likely be a lethal event, unless treated with modern medicine.
Way back in the evolutionary tree, muscle developed an alarm system that alerts us to the ischemia and impending infarction and death. This alarm system is crucial for life and is used many times each day to keep us alive.
We can see that muscle pain has a very important role to play, and is just another of example of how our incredibly evolved bodies work to keep us alive and functional.
In the next post we will look at why a muscle signals pain even when there appears to be no immediate cause.
I know that many of you might be thinking this is great information, but how does this help me?. I believe that the first step to solving any problem is understanding it. After Ive outlined where we are, Ill share with you the specific steps and actions you can take to make changes that will turn off the muscle pain signal by fixing the underlying causes.
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How Is Lower Back Pain Diagnosed
Your provider will ask about your symptoms and do a physical exam. To check for broken bones or other damage, your provider may order imaging studies. These studies help your provider see clear pictures of your vertebrae, disks, muscles, ligaments and tendons.
Your provider may order:
- Spine X-ray, which uses radiation to produce images of bones.
- MRI, which uses a magnet and radio waves to create pictures of bones, muscles, tendons and other soft tissues.
- CT scan, which uses X-rays and a computer to create 3D images of bones and soft tissues.
Depending on the cause of pain, your provider may also order blood tests or urine tests. Blood tests can detect genetic markers for some conditions that cause back pain . Urine tests check for kidney stones, which cause pain in the flank .
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The Most Common Causes Of Lower Back Pain Are A Strain Or Sprain
Whether you notice it or not, your lumbar spine gets put to work throughout the entire day.
Amid all of this work and motion, a lower back sprain or strain can result from an acute injury, such as one experienced while falling, lifting something too heavy or playing sports. A sprain or strain can also develop over time due to repetitive movements or poor posture.
“Straining a muscle or spraining a ligament are the most common causes of lower back pain,” says Dr. Palmer. “While they can be serious, these common causes of lower back pain aren’t long-lasting taking anywhere from a few days to heal or, at most, a few months.”
Your doctor can help you determine the particular course of self-care that can help heal your lower back pain.
“The treatment for a pulled back muscle or strained back ligament is fairly simple and can include pain and anti-inflammatory medications, muscle relaxers, ice to help reduce inflammation, heat to promote healing, and avoiding strenuous activity until the pain recedes,” explains Dr. Palmer. “The best course of care will depend on the severity of your injury as well as your overall core and lower body strength.”
If your lower back pain persists despite treatment, it may be time to consider other causes of lower back pain.
What Are Some Other Causes Of Lower Back Pain
The shape of your spine, and well as spinal diseases, are other culprits in lower back pain. Depending on a range of factors, your doctor may look for:
Abnormal spinal curvature. A normal spine resembles a gently curved letter S when seen from the side. Abnormal curves include:
- Lordosis, in which the spine curves too far inward at the lower back
- Kyphosis, in which the spine is abnormally rounded in the upper back
- Scoliosis, in which the spine curves from side to side, often in a C shape
Normal and abnormal curves of the spineArthritis. There are more than 100 types of arthritis, many of which can cause lower back pain. The most common types include osteoarthritis , rheumatoid arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis.
Cauda equina syndrome . Compression of the bundle of nerves that forms below the spinal cord in the lumbar spine. It is a rare but serious disorder that requires immediate medical attention and possibly emergency surgery. CES got its name from the fact that the fanned-out bundle of nerves resembles the base of a horses tail.
Discitis or osteomyelitis.Both infections of discs and bone can cause severe pain and require prompt medical attention.
Spinal tumors. When cells divide and multiply unchecked, the result is a tumor. Both benign and malignant tumors can cause lower back pain. They can either originate in the spine or metastasize there, meaning theyve spread from somewhere else in the body.
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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
Understanding The Lower Back
The lower back is also called the lumbosacral area of the back. It is the part of the back between the bottom of the ribs and the top of the legs.
Most of the lower back is made up from muscles that attach to, and surround, the spine. The spine is made up of many bones called vertebrae. The vertebrae are roughly circular and between each vertebra is a disc. The discs between the vertebrae are a combination of a strong fibrous outer layer and a softer, gel-like centre. The discs act as shock absorbers and allow the spine to be flexible.
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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.
Food And Drug Interactions
Penicillamine can interact with other medications, herbs, vitamins, and other supplements, so it is important to talk to the doctor about any existing medications.
Having all prescriptions filled at the same pharmacy can help reduce this risk, because the pharmacist can check for possible drug interactions.
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Common Conditions That Cause Chronic Pain
The good news is that it is a symptom, your bodys way of telling your brain that something is wrong.
For those who suffer from chronic pain, it can be debilitating, affecting every aspect of life.
The most common conditions that cause chronic pain are: back issues, arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, fibromyalgia, lupus, pelvis problems, chronic fatigue syndrome.
Traditional medicine has devised ways to deal with pain but sometimes the cure is almost as bad as the malady . As a symptom, the best way to manage pain is to find the root cause and fix it as best you can. Here are some ideas to help.
Can I Prevent Lower Back Pain
You cant prevent lower back pain that results from disease or structural problems in the spine. But you can avoid injuries that cause back pain.
To reduce your risk of a back injury, you should:
- Maintain a healthy weight: Excess weight puts pressure on vertebrae and disks.
- Strengthen your abdominal muscles: Pilates and other exercise programs strengthen core muscles that support the spine.
- Lift the right way: To avoid injuries, lift with your legs . Hold heavy items close to your body. Try not to twist your torso while youre lifting.
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What Is The Outlook For People With Lower Back Pain
The outlook depends on the cause of pain. Most people with back strains and sprains recover and do not have long-term health issues. But many people will have another episode within a year.
Some people have chronic back pain that doesnt get better after several weeks. Older people with degenerative conditions such as arthritis and osteoporosis may have symptoms that get worse over time. Surgery and other treatments are effective at helping people with a range of injuries and conditions live pain-free.
The Most Common Causes Of Muscle Pain
Not all aches are related to stress or physical activity. As stated above, some medical conditions can cause muscle pain. For example:
In case you have pain on both sides of your body that lasts longer than three months, it might be a sign of fibromyalgia. It is a long-term condition that can cause pain in muscles, general fatigue, sleep and cognitive disturbances. Other symptoms of this condition include headaches, dry eyes, anxiety, pain in the lower belly, and bladder problems.
Keep in mind that only professional healthcare providers can make a diagnosis. If you notice the symptoms of fibromyalgia, make an appointment with a doctor as soon as possible and get the right treatment on time.
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Is Chronic Myofascial Pain The Same Thing As Fibromyalgia Syndrome
No, but CMP may resemble fibromyalgia syndrome Since both disorders are defined as having tender points in muscles. However, CMP is believed to be a disorder of the muscle itself while FMS is believed to be a disorder in the way the brain processes pain signals. FMS is usually associated with more widespread pain and other symptoms that do not affect muscles including sleep disruption, irritable bowel syndrome, fatigue throughout the body and headache.
Is It Something To Worry About
The short answer, in most cases, is no. Most people with thoracic spine pain get better without treatment in a couple of weeks.
However, thoracic back pain is more likely to be due to a serious cause than pain in other areas of the spine. There is a whole list of things to look out for that might indicate there’s a problem. The sort of red flags I’m going on about include pain coming on shortly after an accident, having a condition that causes a wonky immune system, feeling generally unwell, or having pain that’s getting worse after a couple of weeks’ treatment.
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Herniated Disk In The Upper Back
The backbone, or spine, is made up of 26 bones called vertebrae. In between the bones are soft disks filled with a jelly-like substance. These disks cushion the vertebrae and keep them in place. Although people talk about a slipped disk, nothing actually slips out of place. The outer shell of the disk ruptures, and the jelly-like substance bulges out. It may be pressing on a nerve, which is what causes the pain.A slipped disk is more likely to happen due to strain on the back, such as during heavy lifting, and older individuals are at higher risk.
Top Symptoms: upper back pain, neck pain, arm weakness, back pain that gets worse when sitting, upper spine pain
Symptoms that always occur with herniated disk in the upper back: upper back pain
Urgency: Primary care doctor
Chronic Back Muscle Pain
Chronic back muscle pain is an extremely common patient complaint which can be very difficult to accurately diagnose and effectively treat. Most back muscle pain is due to minor back injury or simple overexertion, but some cases are not so easily linked to a definitive causative source. Back muscle strains and sprains are common, but usually get better without any treatment in a few days to a few weeks. Chronic muscular pain is a completely different story, with patients enduring months, years or even decades of agonizing torture.
Muscular pain syndromes, also known as myositis, are among the most prevalent in the anatomy. They can affect virtually any particular region of the body or may be widespread, such as in the case of fibromyalgia.
Medical science is generally preoccupied with linking these mysterious muscular symptoms with anatomical abnormalities, often in the joints or the spine. This unenlightened practice is directly responsible for the horrible treatment results demonstrated for most of these idiopathic pain conditions.
This essay delves into uncovering the truths of chronic muscular back pain syndromes.
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What Is Low Back Pain
The low back, also called the lumbar region, is the area of the back that starts below the ribcage. Almost everyone has low back pain at some point in life. Itâs one of the top causes of missed work in the U.S. Fortunately, it often gets better on its own. When it doesn’t, your doctor may be able to help with several effective treatments.
How Common Is Thoracic Spine Pain
Researchers were asked to find out how many people got back pain and came back with the answer ‘between 4 and 72 people out of 100’. Political pollsters who had never before heard such pinpoint forecasting immediately hired these researchers to predict the outcome of the next general election.
The truth is that unless the question is asked in exactly the same way, different surveys will give different answers. It’s known that teenage girls are particularly prone to thoracic back pain. The dreaded backpack is undoubtedly to blame. Why anyone thought it was a good idea to get rid of school lockers and make children drag a hundredweight of books to and from school on their backs every day, I have no idea.
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