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When To Go To The Doctor For Back Pain

Back Pain Treatment At Home

When to See a Doctor for Back Pain

The good news is that, given time, most back pain gets better on its own. Over-the-counter pain medication may help ease your symptoms. You can also try applying hot or cold packs to reduce your back pain. Both heat and cold stimulate the nerves so use whichever you prefer and see what works best for you. Doctors more commonly recommend heat to relax tight muscles, but you may find ice reduces swelling. Use your heat or cold pack for about 15 to 20 minutes at a time. Dont apply the heat or cold treatment directly to skin. Rest and avoiding activities that especially put strain on your back may also help while you heal. However, doctors dont generally recommend bed rest when your back hurts.

When To Go To Urgent Care For Back Pain

Certain back pain symptoms may not require immediate attention on the same day of occurrence but may need medical assessment as early as possible. When an appointment with a primary care physician or specialist is not available within a week, visiting an urgent care facility may be recommended to evaluate these symptoms:

  • A recent increase in back pain that does not subside with over-the-counter or prescription medications
  • Back pain associated with nausea and/or vomiting
  • Back pain that becomes severe with specific movements, such as while coughing, bending forward or backward, or during twisting movements
  • Back pain that travels down the hip and/or leg
  • Recent onset of back stiffness

While an urgent care facility may not be equipped for a complete evaluation and diagnosis, the physician can help identify any hidden red-flag symptoms. An urgent-care physician can also prescribe medication to help control the symptoms in the short-term and offer referrals/guidance for further evaluation or treatment.

You Had A Fall Accident Or Trauma

If you’ve recently been injured via a fall, blow or accident, the back or neck pain that follows should be checked by a doctor as soon as possible. Even if you were able to walk away intact, any new spine pain may be related to the impact.

If you have osteoporosis and have recently fallen or been in an accident, there is an increased likelihood of a spine injury.

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What Happens When I Visit A Back Doctor

We gather a full medical history of your back problems and perform detailed physical examinations, said Dr. Guo. That includes checking for tenderness, spine range of motion, strength, sensation, and reflexes. Depending on your symptoms, we may perform provocative tests to find out what triggers your pain. We may order imaging studies, such as X-rays, MRIs, or CT scans. We may order electromyography and a nerve conduction study, which assess whether you have muscle and/or nerve problems that may cause your symptoms. We use all the information to help identify the cause of your back pain and associated symptoms, and provide the most appropriate treatments for you.

Why Does My Back Hurt

When Should I Go To The Doctor For Back Pain

There are various causes of back pain, including muscle pain with or without muscles spasms, disc pain, joint pain, or nerve pain. In most cases, these are not harmful or dangerous.

Muscle pain is the most common acute back pain. The period of acute pain is usually limited and may be treated at home or by primary care doctors. Sometimes, these patients may be referred to doctors who specialize in back pain. Some back pain can be a symptom of a more serious problem, like a fracture, infection, or cancer in the spine, said H. Michael Guo, MD, a Duke physiatrist who specializes in spine care. These patients should be seen by spine doctors. Fortunately, spine infections and cancer are very rare and usually only affect people with special risk factors. Spine fractures are also rare and may be associated with thinned spine bones or injuries.

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Incontinence Or Leg Weakness

If controlling your bladder or bowel has rapidly become a challenge, and/or your legs have been growing progressively weaker, you should seek immediate medical care.

Bowel and bladder incontinence, progressive weakness, and loss of sensation in the seat area are symptoms of cauda equina syndrome, which is a very serious condition. Cauda equina syndrome generally requires emergency back surgery.

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:

  • A high fever
  • Increasing weakness in your legs
  • Severe stomach pain
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control

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Pain Radiates Down One Leg Or Arm

Pain, weakness, numbness and/or electrical sensations that go down one leg is often called sciatica. Although sciatica symptoms may result from a tight piriformis muscle these symptoms are more often due to pressure on a spinal nerve root. Symptoms that result from pressure on a spinal nerve root are called radiculopathy.

To diagnose your sciatica, your doctor will likely try to elicit your symptoms by testing your dermatomes. Dermatomes are areas of skin that are served by spinal nerve roots.

This testing may help identify the exact spinal nerve root or roots that are irritated. In turn, this may help make your treatment choice as accurate as possible. Radiculopathy is often caused by a herniated disc, but not always. It may also be due to other things, for example, bone spurs that press on spinal nerve roots.

What To Do If You Have Back Pain

When to See a Doctor for Back Pain

Fortunately, most back pain gets better relatively quickly and there are simple things that can be done to recover and reduce the chance of pain returning. It’s important to keep doing your normal work or daily activities, or return to doing these as soon as you can. You can use heat or ice packs, pain relief medication and exercise or massage if these reduce your pain. Read more about treatment options for back pain.

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Sensations That Might Indicate A Medical Emergency

1. Sharp pain rather than a dull ache: This could indicate a torn muscle or ligament, or a problem with an internal organ in the back or side.2. Radiating pain: This pain “moves” or shoots to the glutes or legs, which could indicate a nerve compression condition.

3. Sudden weakness in the legs: Limb weakness can be caused by compressed nerves in the spine due to conditions like sciatica or spinal stenosis. However, sudden leg weakness could also indicate a stroke.4. Incontinence: Back pain paired with inability to control the bowels or bladder might be a sign of serious nerve compression or a spine infection, such as discitis or meningitis.5. Numbness or pins and needles in the groin or glutes: This is known as saddle anesthesia and is also a sign of a serious nerve or spine condition.

If you have leg weakness, incontinence, and numbness together, you might have cauda equina syndrome, a serious illness characterized by spinal cord nerve damage. This is a medical emergency, and patients usually need surgery immediately to decompress the nerves and reduce permanent damage.

Related reading: Get help for back, neck, and leg pain caused by spinal stenosis

How To Explain Your Back Pain To Your Doctor

Being in pain is . . . well, painful. But it can also be frustrating and annoying. When your pain is affecting your mood, your activities and your overall quality of life its time to talk to your doctor about your treatment options. But how do you explain something thats so overwhelming? Follow these guidelines for ways to effectively explain your back pain to your doctor and get the treatment that you need to get back to normal.

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What Is Back Pain

Back pain refers to pain that you may feel in your back or spine. It is a very common problem: 1 in 6 Australians report having back problems, and 4 out of 5 experience it sometime in their life. While both men and women report that they experience back problems, it is more commonly reported by people 25 years and older.

Back pain can be grouped into different categories. Lower back pain refers to pain felt in the lower part of the spine . Back problems can also affect the upper back , the neck as well as the tailbone .

People experience back pain in different ways. Some people say it feels like a sharp pain other people report aches or spasms. You may feel stiff, or find it hard to turn or bend in certain directions. In some cases, such as sciatica, pain can travel down one or both your legs.

Back pain can impact you physically and mentally. People suffering from back pain may feel irritable or short-tempered. They may worry about whether the pain will control their life and may experience feelings of helplessness.

Can Back Pain Lead To Complications

When Should You See a Doctor for Back Pain?

The good news is that most people recover from back pain within a few weeks.1 See your doctor if you experience additional symptoms, such as:

  • loss of bowel and/or bladder control
  • severe pain that gets worse instead of better over time
  • problems with passing urine or bowel movements
  • numbness or a pins-and-needles sensation in your legs, back or elsewhere
  • unexplained weight loss
  • back redness or swelling

For some people, back pain becomes an ongoing problem. Around 1 in every 2 people who experience back pain will experience it again, and for 1 in 5 people, back pain may last beyond 8 to 12 weeks. Possible complications that result from persistent, long-term back pain include:

  • dependence on strong pain medicines, such as opioids
  • reduced quality of life
  • more difficulty finding work and keeping active

See your healthcare professional if your back pain is unresolved and limits your movement and activities. A health care professional can help you find ways to manage your pain and regain a better quality of life.

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Pain That Prevents You From Falling Asleep

Sleep is a vital aspect of a healthy life and critical to recovery if you have been sick. Its the time when the body heals and repairs itself. If you cannot fall asleep at night due to your back pain, you will feel the effects in the morning and throughout the day. It not only affects your quality of life but can prevent you from healing. Often, back pain that becomes worse at night time is a sign of something more serious.

Family And General Practitioners

When your neck or back pain first starts, your family doctor, general practitioner , or primary care physician is probably your best bet. They may prescribe some painkillers, give you a few exercises to do, and possibly send you to a physical therapist.

If your doctor deems your problem a serious one, they will likely order diagnostic tests and/or refer you on to a specialist such as a rheumatologist or a neurologist. But family doctors can be slow to include new back treatments as they come out.

According to a 2006 study published in Spine Journal. Other than taking your medical history and giving you a physical exam, which are two staples of spine diagnosis, the study found that even as new recommendations were published by leading medical organizations, physicians did not adopt them into their practices.

Because of this, taking a pro-active approach when shopping for spine care may be helpful to you. One way to do this is to research possible diagnostic and treatment options before seeking the doctor. Asking pointed questions while you’re at your appointment is another way.

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Where To Start With Back Pain

Low back pain is one of the most common complaints on the planet.

And when someone starts experiencing back pain it can be so frightening that we immediately want an expert that will somehow magically get rid of it.

Unfortunately, there’s just no unicorns and rainbows when it comes to solving back pain.

Realize that most back pain will resolve on its own. What I’m saying here is that your major ache or tweaked out back doesn’t require a specialist in most cases.

Some of the most common causes of acute or sudden back pain include an injury:

  • to a muscle or tendon
  • to a back ligament
  • to a bulging disc .

And the reality is, many of these issues will eventually resolve on their own.

In my personal opinion, the first time someone starts to experience back pain, they should immediately start doing back extension exercises.

I would continue to do back extensions every 3-4 hours throughout the day for at least 3 days.

And if you notice that you’re feeling better, continue for another 1-2 weeks.

But if your low back pain doesn’t improve, then maybe there is something more serious happening.

More serious causes of back pain include:

  • a narrowing of the spinal canal
  • disc tears or herniations
  • severe degenerative disc disease
  • spinal infections

So if your back pain doesn’t improve with back extensions and modified activities, then you’d want to consider someone who is qualified to properly assess the situation.

How Is Back Pain Treated

When Should You See a Doctor For Back Pain? [Northbrook, IL Chiropractor]

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
  • laser therapy
  • heat and cold therapy
  • electrotherapy

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

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How Do Chiropractors Help Reduce Back Pain

Chiropractic Doctors are specially trained physicians whose expertise lies in treating conditions and injuries to the Musculoskeletal and Nervous system, which includes the upper, middle, and lower back. Chiropractors use treatment methods such as Spinal Manipulation, Chiropractic Adjustments, Exercise Therapy, Electrical Muscle Stimulation, Ultrasound, Spinal Decompression, and more to help reduce back pain in patients.

Get Back Pain Treatment Online

Speak to a board certified doctor, securely from your phone or computer and get back pain treatment online in 15 minutes. There are many home remedies and prescription medications a doctor can recommend to help you recover faster.

We accept these insurance plans and many more. Without insurance, appointments are $119.

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When To Go To The Er For Back Pain

An ER visit is recommended when back pain indicates a medical emergency. An emergency is characterized by the probability of a serious adverse event or an incident that may result in a permanent disability. For back problems, the red-flag symptoms and signs that may indicate an emergency typically start suddenly and include some combination of the following:

  • Sudden loss of sensation in one or both legs, the groin and genital area, and/or the anal region
  • Inability to walk or stand
  • Inability to control bowel movements
  • Difficulty in passing urine or uncontrolled bladder movements
  • Sudden, intolerable pain in the lower back and/or leg
  • Back pain that radiates to the abdomen in front
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Back pain that follows a trauma, such as a fall, sports injury, or car accident
  • Sudden back pain with known risk factors for a fracture, such as osteoporosis

Many of these symptoms relate to spinal cord and/or cauda equina problems in the lower back, severe damage to a spinal nerve, or organ-related damage, or a possible fracture. It is important to evaluate and treat these symptoms and signs urgently to avoid permanent tissue damage and disability.

If any of the above symptoms are experienced, visiting the ER right away or calling 911 for assistance is advised.

Loss Of Bladder Or Bowel Control

Back Pain: When to See a Doctor

The inability to control bladder or bowel function indicates something serious. Cauda equina syndrome is a condition caused by a herniated disc in the lower vertebrae pressing against a nerve that controls bladder and bowel control. If you have this issue, make sure to let your doctor know during your visit.

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Abdominal Pain With Acute Back Pain

Lets say you have a sudden onset of acute back pain but you havent done anything strenuous lately. If its coupled with abdominal pain as well, you need to go to urgent care for back pain.

The reason these two symptoms together are so alarming is that they could be symptoms of an abdominal aortic aneurysm.

Your aorta is the main artery of the body. It runs from your heart through your abdomen. When it ruptures, youll feel as if you have an intense stomach ache.

A ruptured aorta is life-threatening. Dont waste time asking should I go to urgent care for back pain?, just go to a walk-in clinic.

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