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When Should I Go To The Doctor For Back Pain

Some Shoulder Conditions May Become More Common As You Age

Kingwood chiropractic doctor answers when to go see a chiropractor for neck and back pain

You probably don’t think about your shoulders much, until you suddenly experience pain in one of them. Shoulder pain can make a simple act brushing and drying your hair, reaching behind your back to fasten a bra, or grabbing something overhead seem like a monumental task.

As you age, you’re more likely to experience shoulder pain from a variety of common conditions. “Shoulder problems are very common,” says Dr. Arun Ramappa, associate professor of orthopedic surgery at Harvard Medical School. The pain can come on gradually or abruptly, and it may range from mild to excruciating.

Below are some of the most common conditions you may encounter, and some tips for how to address them.

When To Consider Sciatica Surgery

Sciatica pain is no joke. Originating in your lower back, it can radiate down your hips, buttocks, legs, and even into your feet. Its estimated that about 40 percent of people will experience sciatica over the course of their lives, and for some, it can be quite debilitating. Though most cases will resolve over time, persistent or severe sciatica often requires some type of medical intervention. But how do you know if your sciatica is significant enough to warrant surgery? Here, well discuss some important signs you should consider saying yes to surgery.

Common Treatments For Low Back Pain

Combining information from the patients medical history, physical exam, and possible diagnostic tests, the healthcare provider will recommend a course of back care that fits the patients needs.

Non-surgical treatments for low back pain will be recommended first. Common non-surgical treatments include:

  • Physical therapy, which typically works to strengthen muscles and mobilize joints in order to better support the spine and minimize painful movements.

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Rotator Cuff Injuries And Irritations

Your rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that help tether your shoulder into the socket and allow you to move it in a circular motion. Some two million people visit a doctor each year for rotator cuffrelated issues, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgery . Most problems with the rotator cuff fall into two categories: tears or inflammation. Suspect a rotator cuff problem if you have pain or stiffness in your shoulder when you lift your arm above your head to brush your hair or when you reach behind your back. “You won’t be able to do a lot of things you want to do, such as put dishes in an upper cabinet, play tennis, or do garden pruning,” says Dr. Ramappa.

Rotator cuff impingement. A rotator cuff impingement happens when there is irritation, inflammation, or compression of the tendons or bursa in the shoulder. An impingement can be caused by an injury, but it can also just result from general wear and tear from daily life.

Rotator cuff tears. A tear in the rotator cuff will produce pain that is similar to an impingement but has one additional differentiating feature. “If the pain is associated with weakness, it is likely caused by a tear, and if you just have pain, it may only be a rotator cuff impingement,” says Dr. Ramappa.

Performing simple stretches two to three days a week can help keep your muscles flexible and reduce pain, provided your doctor approves.

Symptoms To Look Out For

Back Pain: When to See a Doctor

The sciatic nerve starts at the lower back, through the buttocks, and down each leg, and if its pinched, pain occurs in those areas. If you believe you have sciatica, some common symptoms to be aware of include:

  • Pain radiating down one or both legs and feet
  • Your legs or feet feel weak or numb
  • A burning or tingling sensation in your legs and feet
  • Pain when standing up or sitting down
  • Inability to rest your weight on one leg
  • Wobbly knees

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When Should I See A Doctor For Back Pain

When your back first starts to hurt, try taking an over-the-counter pain reliever and applying ice in the first 48 hours. You may apply heat after 48 hours. You may need to take it easy for a while, but its best to stay as active as tolerated, and to avoid absolute bed rest, said Dr. Guo.

If your back pain lasts more than two weeks and keeps you from participating in normal, daily activities, see your family doctor. If your pain is severe, you should see a doctor sooner. You should seek urgent medical care if you have:

  • Fever associated with back pain
  • Back pain after trauma
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Loss of strength in your arms and legs
  • Unexplained weight loss associated with back pain

Also, always be more cautious if you have special risk factors for cancer, infection, or fractures that may affect the spine.

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Why You Should Avoid Back Surgery

One of the primary reasons why back surgery should be avoided is the risk. All surgeries carry the risk of infection, excessive bleeding, and nerve injury. Not to mention many people dont like being put under general anesthesia or that they may have to use potentially addictive pills to manage the pain after surgery.29 2020 .

What To Expect When You’re At The Hospital

When to See a Doctor for Back Pain

When you arrive at the hospital, a emergency department clinicianeither a doctor, nurse, or physician’s assistantwill ask you a series of questions to figure out the source of the problem. They’ll ask you how long you’ve been experiencing the symptoms and if you can identify anything specific causing the pain. They’ll ask you about any signs that may indicate a more threatening condition .

Next, “the ED clinician will do a physical exam that will focus on looking for the most serious causes of low back pain,” says Dr. Popko. “She will look for motor weakness in legs or arms, or sensory abnormalities, particularly in the genital or groin area. She is typically looking for serious spine conditions or non-spine conditions.”

Spine conditions could include disc or nerve damage, while non-spine conditions could mean issues relating to the blood vessels near the spine.

If you’ve been experiencing back pain for less than six weeks and the doc doesn’t note anything alarming, you most likely won’t be sent for further testing. However, if your clinician does note something as a red flag, they may order you an ultrasound, CT scan, or whichever imaging they think is the most appropriate.

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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.

In addition:

  • 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.

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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Other Types Of Back Pain

There are lots of other types of back pain, maybe you’ve lifted something, you’ve got a back strain or a sprain, maybe you’ve got a herniated disc. We do see lots of people with chronic back pain where it flares up. These are all things that could probably be treated through your primary care doctor or even through an urgent care. But in terms of the things that are really serious, those are the things I recommend watching for.

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How Is Low Back Pain Diagnosed

Should I See a Doctor for Back Pain?

Your doctor will ask questions about your past health, symptoms, and activities. He or she will also do a physical examination. Your answers and the examination can help rule out a serious cause for the pain. In most cases, doctors are able to recommend treatment after the first examination.

Tests such as X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs usually don’t help.

But if you have a back pain problem that has lasted longer than 6 weeks, or if your doctor thinks you may have more than muscle pain, it might be time for one of these tests.

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When Is Back Or Neck Pain An Emergency

Most people experience back pain or neck pain at some point in their livesand most cases are not an emergency. Bouts of spine-related pain can usually be managed at home with an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drug, OTC pain reliever or ice and heat. Seldom is spine surgery urgently needed, and most surgical procedures are elective. However, there are times when back or neck pain requires urgent medical attention. Here, youll learn about 6 potentially serious spinal conditions and symptoms you shouldnt ignore.There are times when back or neck pain requires urgent medical attention. Photo Source: 123RF.com.

Coping With Chronic Back Pain

Low back pain can take a toll on your mental health. You may feel fear, frustration, and anger or have depression and anxiety because of ongoing pain. Those common reactions can make your pain last even longer. If pain is starting to get you down:

  • Let people know when you need a helping hand. Ask family members or friends to help out with physical tasks you can’t do right now.
  • Be honest with your doctor about your pain. Ask for a referral to a counsellor or pain management specialist. A prescription antidepressant or antianxiety medicine may also help with chronic pain.
  • Work with your health professionals and your work supervisor to make a return-to-work plan, if needed. Ask for an ergonomic consultation if you need to learn how to do some of your job duties differently to avoid hurting your back again.

One Man’s Story:

“I started feeling sad and angry a lot. I didn’t want to do anything. My back was hurting more. I was having trouble focusing on my work. My life just started feeling smaller and smaller.”âRavi

Read more about how Ravi learned he had depression and how he fought back.

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What Happens When I Go To The Doctor

Your doctor will obtain your medical history and do a physical exam. Based upon your symptoms, he will most likely order an X-ray along with the possibility of an ultrasound or MRI to get a better view of the muscle and to determine the severity of your injury. Injuries to a muscle or muscle strains typically occur where the muscle connects to the tendon. If you have a muscle strain, youll typically experience muscle pain, tenderness, or possible swelling/bruising. These injuries can take several weeks or even several months to heal, depending on the severity. Treatment will include rest, anti-inflammatory medications and applying ice and compression to the injury site to reduce swelling. In addition, physical therapy is often necessary to decrease pain and gradually improve flexibility, strength and endurance to recover from the current injury and hopefully prevent future injuries. Some very severe complete tears where the muscle attaches to the bone may end up requiring surgery if the patients symptoms do not improve with non-surgical care.

Sometimes a muscle can instead be injured where its tendon attaches to bone. If a tendon is torn and pulled a certain distance away from the bone, then some of these injuries may require surgical repair of the muscles tendon back to the bone. In these cases, there will often be swelling and/or bruising near the area of injury and should prompt immediate visit to a doctor for an evaluation.

Knee Pain: Should You See A Doctor Or Just Wait It Out

When should I see my doctor about lower back pain? – Dr. Kodlady Surendra Shetty

by HealthStar Clinic | Mar 21, 2016 | Blog, Joint Pain, Knee Pain |

Four out of every five knee pain cases resolve by themselves. But sometimes its important to see a doctor. Lets look at why knee pain is so common and four aspects of your symptoms that mean you should see a doctor.

Most knee pain goes away

Everyone has aches and pains that they occasionally experience. Sometimes they arent cause for alarm and in fact, thats true in the vast majority of cases. Eighty percent of the knee problems people have will resolve by themselves within a period of time, explains Robert Gotlin, DO, of Beth Israel Medical Center. When certain symptoms are present, though, it is important to go to the doctor.

Lets look at why knee injury statistics are so high and four times your knee pain symptoms require a doctor.

Why knee pain is so common

Knee pain is incredibly common among American adults. In fact, it is the second most diagnosed pain condition , according to data from the CDC.

The reason the knees are so frequently injured is that, in the general course of life, they are made subject to a huge amount of force: multiple times your full weight. When you walk down the sidewalk or through a room, the amount of pressure on your knees is 1.5 times your weight, according to Harvard Medical School. When you go up or down stairs, they experience 2-3 times your weight when you squat, they are sustaining 4-5 times your weight.

#1 Difficulty walking

#3 Pressing doesnt hurt

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Risk Factors You Can Change With Lifestyle Changes

  • Not getting regular exercise
  • Doing a job or other activity that requires long periods of sitting, heavy lifting, bending or twisting, repetitive motions, or constant vibration, such as using a jackhammer or driving certain types of heavy equipment
  • Smoking. People who smoke are more likely than people who don’t smoke to have low back pain.
  • Being overweight. Excess body weight, especially around the waist, may put strain on your back, although this has not been proved. But being overweight often also means being in poor physical condition, with weaker muscles and less flexibility. These can lead to low back pain.
  • Having poor posture. Slumping or slouching on its own may not cause low back pain. But after the back has been strained or injured, bad posture can make pain worse. “Good posture” generally means your ears, shoulders, and hips are in a straight line. If this posture causes pain, you may have another condition such as a problem with a disc or bones in your back.
  • Being under stress. Stress and other emotional factors are believed to play a major role in low back pain, particularly chronic low back pain. Many people unconsciously tighten their back muscles when they are under stress.

Emotional Support Is Important

You may have to lean on friends and family when facing difficult situations caused by chronic pain or other problems. Your loved ones can play an important role in supporting your recovery. Your doctor and community also may give you extra support.

Asking for support from others is not always easy. It can be hard to tell someone about your problems. But don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Where you can get support

  • Family. Family members can help you cope by giving you comfort and encouragement.
  • Friends. Building strong relationships with others is important for your emotional well-being. Helping is a big part of friendship. At times you may be the one who encourages a friend.
  • Counselling. Professional counselling can help you cope with situations that interfere with your life and cause stress. Counselling can help you understand and deal with your pain. You can learn ways to stop negative thoughts. See the topic Stop Negative Thoughts: Choosing a Healthier Way of Thinking.
  • Stop Negative Thoughts: Getting Started
  • Your doctor. Find someone you trust and feel comfortable with. Be open and honest about your fears and concerns. Your doctor can help you get the right treatments, including treatment for depression or other problems.
  • Religious groups. Religious or spiritual groups may help you meet people and get involved in the community. Some religious organizations can help you get counselling or other social support services.
  • How friends and family can help

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