How Is Low Back Pain Diagnosed
A complete medical history and physical exam can usually identify any serious conditions that may be causing the pain. Neurologic tests can help determine the cause of pain and appropriate treatment. Imaging tests are not needed in most cases but may be ordered to rule out specific causes of pain, including tumors and spinal stenosis. Occasionally the cause of chronic lower back pain is difficult to determine even after a thorough examination.
Blood tests are not routinely used to diagnose the cause of back pain but might be ordered to look for signs of inflammation, infection, cancer, and/or arthritis.
Bone scans can detect and monitor an infection, fracture, or bone disorder. A small amount of radioactive material is injected into the bloodstream and collects in the bones, particularly in areas with some abnormality. Scanner-generated images can identify specific areas of irregular bone metabolism or abnormal blood flow, as well as to measure levels of joint disease.
Discography involves injecting a contrast dye into a spinal disc thought to be causing low back pain. The fluids pressure in the disc will reproduce the persons symptoms if the disc is the cause. The dye helps to show the damaged areas on CT scans taken following the injection.
Electrodiagnostics can identify problems related to the nerves in the back and legs. The procedures include:
Signs That Its Time To Call A Doctor For Your Back Pain
Most people have experienced back pain at some point in their lives. It’s 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 it’s time to stop home remedies and see a physician?
If any of the following applies to your back pain, then it’s time to make an appointment with a doctor as soon as possible.
When To See A Doctor For Your Back Pain
Although many of the causes of sharp pain in the lower back can be minor, it’s important to know when the pain is serious enough to see a doctor. According to the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, if the pain from a fall or twist goes away after 72 hours, there’s little cause for concern. However, if you notice that the sharp pain continues, increases gradually, or appears suddenly, it could be a sign of something more serious.
Some of the causes of lower back pain might be associated with pain radiating from the glutes to the legs. This might be a sign of spinal compression. If you notice weakness in one or both of your legs, that could be a sign of spinal stenosis or sciatica. Additionally, lower back pain may be accompanied by incontinence, which could indicate a spinal infection or significant nerve compression. Numbness in the groin region may potentially be a sign of a spine or nerve problem. Cauda equina syndrome, the most severe form of spinal nerve injury, can manifest as leg weakness, incontinence, and groin numbness. Consult your doctor right away if you experience back pain and these symptoms.
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What Causes Lower Right Back Pain What Is Lower Right Back Pain A Symptom Of
Causes of lower right back pain can be divided into two categories: mechanical problems and underlying conditions. Mechanical problems have to do with the bones and tissues in your back your ligaments, spine, tendons and muscles. Underlying conditions are disorders of your organs. Pain from conditions that affect your organs can radiate to your back.
Who Can Help With My Back Pain
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What Causes Back And Neck Pain
Even with today’s technology, the exact cause of back and neck pain is hard to find. In most cases, back and neck pain may have many different causes. They include:
- Overuse, strenuous activity, or improper use, such as repetitive twisting or heavy lifting
- Trauma, injury, or fractures
- Breakdown of vertebrae, often caused by stresses on the muscles and ligaments that support your spine, or the effects of aging
- Problems of your vertebrae and bones that you were born with
- Abdominal problems, such as an aortic aneurysm
When Is It An Emergency
Lower left back pain can range from mildly uncomfortable to so severe pain that it ishard to function or move.
If you develop sudden, severe pain in your lower back, seek emergency medical care.
If the pain is milder, but does not resolve within 5-7 days, seek medical care.
If your symptoms worsen, are severe,or you also have fever andchills, go to the nearest medical facility and contact your healthcare provider.
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Which Lifestyle Factors Contribute To Lower Back Pain
There are three major lifestyle factors that may affect your chances of developing lower back pain:
- Multiple studies have established a link between smoking and lower back pain. Smoking raises inflammation inside the body and hinders the body from healing itself.
- Obesity is also associated with several types of chronic pain, including lower back pain. In people with high body mass index , the stress on the spine increases, contributing to even more wear and tear.
- Your level of physical activity can also play a role in your lower back health. While a sedentary lifestyle could increase your risk of developing lower back pain, so can excessive or strenuous physical activity. Check with your doctor if you are unsure about your ideal level of physical activity.
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 Can You Care For Yourself At Home
There are several things you can do at home to help reduce your pain. For example:
- Rest. If your back hurts a lot, take a break. But try not to let too much time pass before you get moving again. Instead, return to your activities slowly.
- Use over-the-counter pain medicines, such as acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs . These can reduce pain and swelling. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
- Use over-the-counter muscle relaxants, such as methocarbamol . These can relax muscles and may reduce pain, but they may cause drowsiness, dizziness, or lightheadedness.
- Use a heating pad or ice pack. Heat can reduce pain and stiffness. Ice can help reduce pain and swelling.
- Exercise. Exercises that stretch and strengthen the muscles in your back, shoulders, and stomach can help improve your posture, decrease your chance of injury, and reduce pain.
- Practice good posture. Be sure to stand or sit tall. Dont slump or slouch.
- Learn ways to reduce stress. You might try deep breathing and relaxation exercises or meditation.
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Home Remedies For Upper Back Pain
Although over-the-counter and prescription medication can relieve a burning sensation in your upper back, you might prefer home remedies.
- Hot or cold therapy. For acute pain due to injury or muscle strain, cold therapy may help reduce inflammation. Wrap an ice pack in a towel, and then apply the towel to your back and neck. Apply cold therapy for no more than 20 minutes at a time. If you have chronic upper back pain, heat therapy might be more effective. It can calm and relax your muscles, and increase blood circulation. Apply a heating pad for no more than 15 to 20 minutes at a time.
- Get enough sleep. Lack of sleep can increase your stress level and make back pain worse. Aim for at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Create a comfortable sleep environment and avoid stimulating activities before bed .
- Exercise.Increasing physical activity can improve blood circulation, strengthen your back, and reduce inflammation. This can ease mild to moderate back pain. Aim for 30 minutes of light physical activity at least 5 days a week.
Who Should I See For Lower Back Pain
Your primary care physician knows you best and should be your first contact for lower back pain. If he or she is unable to diagnose or treat the issue, you may get referred to a specialist, such as a rehabilitation physician . These specialists practice a comprehensive approach to lower back pain, and can diagnose and treat a variety of conditions that have lower back pain as a symptom.
Later, you may get referred to a physical therapist, a chiropractor or another practitioner depending on the nature of your back pain. The good news is that surgery is rarely needed for lower back pain. Only about one in ten patients needs lower back surgery, Chhatre says.
Causes Of Leg Numbness
Leg numbness may be experienced as a tingly sensation, loss of sensitivity, or pins-and-needles perception. Temporary leg numbness is common after sitting on the leg for an extended period. This is due to pressure being placed on a nerve or lack of blood flow to the nerve. Leg numbness can also be the result of lower back problems.
Persistent numbness and tingling can be a sign of an underlying health condition. Common conditions that cause leg numbness include, but are not limited to, the following:
Sciatica, or sciatic nerve pain, refers to pain that occurs when the sciatic nerve root in the lower back becomes compressed, irritated or inflamed. Sciatic nerve pain radiates from the lower back, into the buttocks, and down the legs. It is most commonly the result of a herniated or slipped disc, bone spurs, or spinal stenosis.
Diabetes occurs when the body doesnt make enough insulin or cant effectively use insulin. Peripheral neuropathy is a medical condition that develops when the peripheral nerves are damaged due to diabetes. Numbness often begins in the toes and moves upward.
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system. With MS, the immune system attacks the protective shell of nerve fibers throughout the body. Scar tissue then accumulates around the nerves, which eventually causes nerve damage. Numbness is an early symptom of MS.
Peripheral nerve tumor
Peripheral artery disease
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How Can Back Pain Be Prevented
In most cases, you can prevent back pain by making changes to your lifestyle.
Doing exercise helps to keep your back flexible and strong. Exercise improves your posture and helps your muscles to support your spine. Exercises that can help prevent back pain include:
- low-impact aerobic exercise
- strengthening exercises, such as lifting weights, climbing stairs or hiking hills
- stretching exercises, such as Pilates and yoga
Maintaining a good posture is important when you sit at home, in your workplace, or in your car. Try not to slouch, and use equipment that supports your back, such as a lumbar support or footstool if you need.
Keeping a healthy weight is also important. Excess fat can strain your back and lead to back pain, sciatica and inflammation.
Practise safe lifting in your home or workplace. Whenever you pick up a heavy load, squat down, hold the object close to your body, and lift with your legs.
- Quit smoking Smoking increases your chances of developing persistent back pain.
- Relax Learning relaxation techniques and mindfulness can help to reduce stress and muscle tension in your back.
- Avoid high heels wearing high heels can place strain on your back.
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.
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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.
What Research Is Being Done
The mission of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke is to seek fundamental knowledge of the brain and nervous system and to use that knowledge to reduce the burden of neurological disease. NINDS is a component of the National Institutes of Health , the leading supporter of biomedical research in the world.
As a primary supporter of research on pain and pain mechanisms, NINDS is a member of the NIH Pain Consortium, which was established to promote collaboration among the many NIH Institutes and Centers with research programs and activities addressing pain. On an even broader scale, NIH participates in the Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee, a federal advisory committee that coordinates research across other U.S. Department of Health and Human Services agencies as well as the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.
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What Are The Symptoms
You’ll probably feel a sharp or constant pain in your back and neck. Your exact symptoms depend on where the weak disk is and other changes it has caused.
Common signs include pain that:
- Is in your lower back, buttocks, or upper thighs
- Comes and goes. It can be nagging or severe, and can last from a few days to a few months.
- Feels worse when you sit, and better when you move and walk
- Feels worse when you bend, lift, or twist
- Gets better when you change positions or lie down
In some cases, degenerative disk disease can lead to numbness and tingling in your arms and legs. It can also cause your leg muscles to become weak. This means the damaged disks may be affecting the nerves near your spine.
How Are Back And Neck Pain Diagnosed
Your healthcare provider will ask about your health history and do a physical exam. They may also do X-rays of the affected areas, as well as an MRI. This allows a more complete view. The MRI also makes pictures of soft tissues such as ligaments, tendons, and blood vessels. The MRI can help spot infection, tumor, inflammation, or pressure on your nerve. Sometimes a blood test may help diagnose arthritis, a condition that can cause back and neck pain.
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When To Call A Doctor
Consult your doctor if you have back pain thats intense, worrisome, or that doesnt go away with self-care measures. Its also important to call your doctor if your lower back pain is making it hard for you to go about your daily activities.
Most cases of lower back pain on the right side are not medical emergencies. However, dont hesitate to get immediate medical help if you experience back pain thats accompanied by any of the following symptoms:
- loss of bladder or bowel function
- sudden, severe pain
- weakness or loss of sensation in your lower body
- pain accompanied by fever, clammy skin, a rapid heart rate, nausea, vomiting, or any other concerning symptoms
The appropriate treatment for lower back pain emergencies depends on the cause. If the source of the pain isnt obvious, you may need one or more of the following screenings to determine the right course of action:
- an MRI to check your spinal cord, nerve roots, and other soft tissue
- an X-ray to look at your spine and other joints for signs of fracture or other concerns
- blood tests to check for markers of inflammation
If nerve or muscle problems are the cause of lower back on the right, epidural injections of corticosteroids may be necessary if the pain and loss of mobility and function are severe.
If appendicitis is diagnosed and it cant be managed by antibiotics, then emergency surgery to remove the appendix may be necessary.
- nerve compression in your spine
- disc degeneration
- an abdominal aortic aneurysm