Back Pain Symptoms That May Indicate A Serious Problem
See your doctor if back pain doesnt improve within 2 weeks of developing. There are times when back pain can be a symptom of a serious medical problem.
Symptoms that can indicate a more serious medical problem are:
These tips can help ease back pain when it happens. They can also help you prevent back pain in the first place.
Heavy briefcases, laptop bags, suitcases, and purses can add unnecessary stress and strain to your neck and spine.
Try to reduce what you need to carry, and use bags that distribute the weight more evenly, such as a backpack. If you can, use a bag with wheels to keep weight off your back entirely.
Work your core
The muscles in and around your abdomen and back help keep you upright and carry you through your physical activities. Strengthening them can also reduce the chances of pain, strain, or damage to your back.
Improve your posture
- have been diagnosed with a specific condition like arthritis
What Is Back Pain
Pain in your back can be an annoying ache, or it can get so bad that its unbearable. Back pain is the second most common reason why people visit their healthcare providers . Many people miss work because of it. Around 80% to 90% of people in the United States will have back pain at some point in their lives.
Even The Nonprescription Pain Relievers Are Not Risk Free
Medicines like ibuprofen and naproxen can be helpful, but they can cause stomach inflammation and ulcers, as well as possible bleeding, and even kidney damage, especially in the elderly. Muscle relaxants can be sedating, and can interact with other common medications. Benzodiazepines and opiates not only can cause sedation, making it hard to think clearly and function normally, they are also addictive. Basically, for acute and subacute low back pain, the risks of these medications outweigh the benefits. Other medications, like acetaminophen, steroids, antidepressants, and anti-seizure medications, were not significantly helpful for acute and subacute low back pain at all.
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How Can You Prevent Lower Back Pain
While you cant stop aging or change your genetic makeup, lifestyle changes can help manage and prevent lower back pain. Having a healthy lifestyle may make you less likely to suffer an accidental injury, too.
Improve your physical fitness. People who are not physically fit are more likely to develop lower back pain because strong core muscles help support the lower back.
Stay active. People who lead sedentary lives may be more likely to injure themselves when they do exert themselves. As far as back health is concerned, its better to do a smaller amount of physical activity most days of the week than to sit all week and over-exert yourself on the weekends.
Lose weight if necessary. The more you weigh, the more pressure you have on your lumbar vertebrae. Being overweight or obese can put stress on the back and lead to lower back pain.
Lift heavy objects the right way. Be sure to squat while lifting so that your hips and knees do much of the work. Keep the load close to your chest while you lift.
Your legs, not your lower back, should be the main driver when youre lifting something heavy.Make your workspace as ergonomic as possible. If you sit at a desk, make sure your chair has plenty of low-back support and your hips are at a right angle to the floor.
Dont use tobacco products. In addition to all the other health problems tobacco use causes, it can restrict blood flow and oxygen to the discs, causing them to degenerate faster.
How Long Can A Person Use An Inversion Table
A person should not use an inversion table for more than a few minutes at a time. A person can use an inversion table for up to 10 minutes a day, but they should be mindful of how their body responds to being in an inverted position. A person should stop using an inversion table if it causes pain.
Hanging upside down for an extended period of time can cause death. Gravity can cause more blood to be transferred back to the heart, putting strain on the organ. Additionally, a persons heart rate may slow down while in an inverted position.
It is not safe to sleep on an inversion table.
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Injections And Other Procedures
If you have severe sciatica, your doctor may suggest an epidural injection. Epidural injections contain a local anaesthetic and steroid to relieve pain and reduce inflammation. Theyre only recommended for sciatica and not non-specific lower back pain.
If your back pain is chronic and other treatments havent helped, your doctor may suggest a procedure called radiofrequency denervation. Its only suitable for certain types of back pain. Your doctor will refer you to a specialist to assess whether it would help you.
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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What Does Upper Back Pain Indicate
Upper back pain can occur anywhere between the base of the neck and the bottom of the rib cage. Upper back pain may be caused by injuries or fractures, poor posture, disk problems or other issues, such as arthritis. People with mild to moderate upper back pain can usually manage their symptoms at home.
Upper Back Pain Relief – Ask Doctor Jo
Can Minor Car Accident Cause Back Pain
If youve been in a minor car accident, you may be wondering if youre at risk for back pain. Its important to get checked out by a physician as soon as possible. Some people experience back pain a few days after the accident, while others dont experience it until several days or even weeks afterward. While some of these symptoms can be temporary, others are a sign of more serious injuries.
No matter the type of injury, back pain is a very common ailment after a car crash. The length of time you experience it depends on the severity and location of the damage. Back pain is often caused by a herniated disc. This is a painful condition that can affect the ability to move and cause radiating pain.
A minor car accident can also cause back pain, which is often accompanied by stiffness. This stiffness can persist for days or even weeks. Pain will also be intense and may occur when you perform even the most basic movements. This back pain can interfere with normal physical activity, including lifting and carrying heavy objects. The pain may be accompanied by muscle spasms and limit your range of motion. The pain is usually temporary, but in some cases, back sprains require additional treatment.
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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
When Is Back Pain An Emergency
- The pain is sudden and severe.
- You have pain and you cant control your bowels or urine, or have nausea, fever or vomiting.
- Your pain is so severe that you cant go about your daily activities.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Back paincan be very frustrating and interrupt your daily life. There are many treatment options to help your back pain and get back to daily activities. See your healthcare provider to discuss your options. They’re there to help.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 02/03/2022.
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What Causes Pain In Upper Left Back
For people experiencing mild to moderate upper left back pain with recent onset, muscle strain is by far the most common cause. Some potential muscle strain causes include: Overuse. When performing repetitive motions, such as painting or rowing, muscles in the shoulders and upper back may become overused and strained.
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.
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Look Into Getting A New Mattress
How old is your bed? You may be surprised to learn that the average life span of a mattress is less than 10 years. Theres no hard-and-fast rule, says Sean Mackey, MD, PhD, chief of the division of pain medicine at Stanford University, but if your mattress is sagging significantly or is more than six to eight years old, Id think about getting a new one.
Something else to consider: A firm mattress may not do your back any favors, says Carmen R. Green, MD, a physician at the University of Michigan Back & Pain Center. A number of studies over the years suggest that people with lower back pain who sleep on medium-firm mattresses do better than those with firm beds, she says.
Chronic Lower Back Pain
When back pain continues for more than three months, it is considered chronic. Although for most people an episode of back pain is over by that time, in some cases it progresses and can have a major impact on ones ability to function. For some patients, physical therapy with local heat or ice application , combined with a home exercise program and education in proper positions for lifting and other movement techniques can make a major difference. Patients must learn to tolerate a certain degree of pain, or they may allow themselves to become more disabled than necessary. Patients at the Hospital for Special Surgery have had success with graded exercise to work through the pain, gradually increasing the exercise quota at each session so they can learn to tolerate more exercise in spite of the pain, and get back to work and activities. Read more detail on this topic in .
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Is Your Back Pain An Emergency
Did you wake up today with the worst back pain youve ever felt?
Was it a normal day, and then severe back pain started and you dont know what to do?
In these circumstances you might think the emergency room is the place to go for help.
There are certain pain symptoms that do belong in the emergency department:
Severe back pain is rarely a medical emergency. Back pain, even with tingling or numbness in your leg, pain that makes you limp, and hurts to sit or stand for long doesnt belong in the emergency room.
How Do You Know If Your Back Injury Is Serious
If you experience back pain after a car accident, you may need to see a doctor. Discs between vertebrae can shift during a collision and compress nerves. If this happens, the disc may be herniated. This causes pain, numbness, and weakness throughout the body. There are several types of back injuries. Your doctor can perform an MRI, order x-rays, or perform a discography to see which disc is problematic. Your physician will also assess your level of mobility and suggest possible therapies.
Your doctor should also evaluate the extent of your injuries. If the back pain is severe, you should contact 911 or visit an emergency room in your area. A family doctor will not be able to diagnose if youve sustained disc damage. He will likely prescribe anti-inflammatory medicines or advise you to wait and see how things progress.
Even a minor back injury can turn into a degenerative or chronic spinal condition. Having an auto accident specialist evaluate your spine is essential to make sure youre receiving the proper treatment. A serious back injury can affect your ability to work, limiting your productivity for weeks.
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Mechanical Lower Back Pain
Because it represents 97% of cases, mechanical low back pain deserves to be discussed first. To determine the factors that bring out the pain, the doctor will consider the following causes of mechanical low back pain:
- Spondylolisthesis .
- Osteoarthritis .
- Spinal stenosis .
Low back pain that gets worse with sitting may indicate a herniated lumbar disc . This is because certain positions of the body can change the amount of pressure that an out-of-place disc can press on a nerve. This is one reason we suggest to people with low back pain to periodically get up and stretch or walk around rather than continually stay sitting. Acute onset, that is, pain that comes on suddenly, may suggest a herniated disc or a muscle strain, as opposed to a more gradual onset of pain, which fits more with osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis, or spondylolisthesis.
What Is A Back Spasm
A back spasm is an involuntary contraction of the back muscles. Moving in a certain way may trigger a back spasm. More often than not, spasms happen because of muscle weakness, overuse, or injury.
Chronic back spasms may be the result of an underlying condition. If muscle spasms are particularly severe, they may stem from nerve irritation or damage.
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Who Treats Back Pain
Different types of health care providers treat back pain, depending on the cause:
- Pain specialists, who are physicians including anesthesiologists with specialized training in evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of all different types of pain.
- Family or primary care doctors.
- Orthopaedists, who treat and perform surgery for bone and joint diseases.
- Neurologists, who treat disorders and diseases of the spine, brain, and nerves.
- Neurosurgeons, who perform surgery for disorders and diseases of spine, brain, and nerves.
- Rheumatologists, who specialize in treating musculoskeletal diseases and autoimmune disorders.
- Physical therapists, who specialize in movement and strengthening muscles.
Ask About Prescription Medications
If your back pain hasnt resolved itself within four to six weeks, make an appointment with your doctor, who will examine your back and ask you to sit, stand, bend, walk, and lift your legs to see how your pain is affecting your mobility. Youll likely be asked to rate your pain on a scale of one to 10, and they may do imaging tests, like an X-ray or MRI. Then, he or she may recommend one of the following prescribed therapies:
- Muscle relaxants: Medications like cyclobenzaprine or baclofen can help relieve painful back spasms. If you go this route, just know that side effects can include fatigue and dizziness.
- Topical pain medications: These creams and ointments, like Voltaren gel, are meant to be rubbed directly on to the area thats hurting you.
- Cortisone shots: If other treatment measures fail, your doctor may recommend an injection of cortisone, a potent anti-inflammatory. There are risks, including thinning of nearby bone, and relief typically lasts just a few months, tops.
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