What Questions Might A Healthcare Provider Ask To Help Diagnose Back Pain
Your healthcare provider will ask if you injured yourself, how long youve had back pain and how severe your pain is. They need to know other medical problems you have and what medications you take. If you have family members who have had similar issues, let your provider know. They might also ask questions such as:
- Are you able to work every day?
- Does what you do for a living involve lifting?
- Do any of your hobbies aggravate your back pain?
- Do you have any other symptoms?
- Where is your pain located?
- How does the pain affect your daily activities?
- What at-home treatments have you tried?
Can Back Pain Be Prevented
Recurring back pain resulting from improper body mechanics may be prevented by avoiding movements that jolt or strain the back, maintaining correct posture, and lifting objects properly. Many work-related injuries are caused or aggravated by stressors such as heavy lifting, contact stress , vibration, repetitive motion, and awkward posture.Recommendations for keeping ones back healthy
What Questions Should I Ask My Healthcare Provider About My Back Pain
See your provider and get treatment soon so that you dont have to suffer from back pain. Some of the questions you may want to ask them include:
- Whats causing my back pain?
- Is there a name for my type of back pain?
- Will my pain go away on its own?
- Whats my best treatment option?
- What can I do at home to help treat my pain?
- Do I need to see a specialist?
- Can I work/go about my usual activities?
- How can I prevent the back pain from coming back?
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Ready To Address Your Back Pain
The University of Maryland Spine Network can help you put your pain behind you. With convenient locations throughout the state, the UM Spine Network is home to the region’s leading spine surgeons and specialists that can help you identify the source of your pain and put an end to it for good.
Put an end to your back pain. Find a spine specialist near you.
In This Section:
How Is Back Pain Evaluated And Diagnosed
In many cases, your healthcare provider may get all the information they need from interviewing you about your symptoms, health history and lifestyle and then doing an exam. However, sometimes image tests are necessary. These may include:
- A medical spine provider who specializes in back pain.
- An orthopaedic provider who specializes in bones and joints.
Your healthcare provider may also recommend a therapist or psychiatrist if youre struggling to cope with your pain.
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What If I Dont Want Surgery For My Back Pain
Fortunately, most people with back pain dont need surgery. We usually take a conservative approach first, using a wide variety of nonsurgical spine treatments, said Dr. Guo. For example, I might send you to physical therapy or chiropractic therapy. I might recommend medications such as anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants, or some nerve-pain medications. We offer injection therapy, including epidural injections, joint injections, and nerve blocks and ablation if your back pain fails to improve with the conservative treatments. Chances are, one of these approaches will help reduce your back pain and improve your function and quality of life.
Other Sleep Hygiene Tips
Here are some other ideas for how you can get better rest at night and reduce your back pain:
Put yourself on a sleep schedule. It may be hard to resist sleeping in if you toss and turn all night. Still, setting regular bedtimes and wake times can help your body fall into a more natural sleeping pattern. Aim to get around eight hours of sleep per night.
Having trouble with a sleep schedule? Try following a nightly routine. Start this routine about 30 to 60 minutes before your set bedtime. Choose two soothing activities that help put your mind into a relaxing space.
Ideas include taking a bath, doing some gentle yoga, and engaging in quiet hobbies like reading or knitting.
Skip caffeinated drinks like coffee and other stimulants. If you just have to drink a cup, finish your last one before noon.
Save hard exercise for the morning or early afternoon hours. Doing anything too rigorous before bed may raise your adrenaline levels and even your body temperature. These two factors make it even harder to sleep.
If you dont already have a primary care doctor, the Healthline FindCare tool can help you find a physician in your area.
For pain relief
Use an ice or a cold gel pack before hopping into bed. It may help reduce inflammation in your back and relieve pain. Apply the cold pack to your back for 15 to 20 minutes before sleep.
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Rub On Medicated Creams
Skin creams, salves, ointments, or patches may help when your back feels stiff, sore, and tense. Many of these products contain ingredients such as menthol, camphor, or lidocaine that can cool, heat, or numb the affected area.
Put on creams right where you hurt. Ask someone to apply it if you have trouble reaching the spot.
âIt’s not going to be a mainstay at providing significant relief, but it can calm things down,â Ray says.
The Function Of The Sciatic Nerve
The sciatic nerve provides feeling and sensation throughout the leg and foot. This nerve is also responsible for most movement by stimulating the muscles in the leg to be able to feel and move. Due to the fact that it branches off into smaller nerves, it is able to accommodate a large area of the body.
What is Sciatica Pain?
Sciatica pain refers to pain that originates from the sciatic nerve. It causes pain that runs down your lower back through your gluteus maximus, and down your leg. You have a sciatic nerve that runs down each leg, however, in most cases, you only experience sciatica pain on one side of your body at a time. Due to the nerveâs massive size and length, sciatica can present in a variety of ways depending on the origination of the damage. Common symptoms include:
- Numbness and/or tingling in the affected leg
- Pain that ranges from mild to excruciating
- Burning sensation in the affected leg
- Muscle weakness
Everyone is different and may experience one or more of the above symptoms based on the severity and causes.
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What Should You Do Advice From A Physical Therapist
Its unusual to have a Physical Therapist in the Emergency Department. PTs are good at listening, explaining pain and helping you to problem solve what to do at home.
When I see people in the ED, this is what I suggest:
In the absence of trauma or true neurological loss there arent many good reasons to go to the emergency room.
Trauma doctors are not trained in pain management, and with the opioid medication situation causing them to prescribe more cautiously than they used to, there is a good chance you will still leave with your pain unchanged.
Signs Of Severe Back Pain That Must Be Treated At An Emergency Room
Visit your nearest emergency room if you are experiencing one or more of the following signs or symptoms:
- You suffered a direct injury to your back or spinal cord.
- You have severe lower back pain, motor weakness, sensory loss, pain in one or both legs and you are unable to control your bladder or bowels. These could be signs of Cuada Equine Syndrome and could lead to permanent paralysis if left untreated.
If youre experiencing severe back pain, the skilled specialists at Getwell Urgent Care can help you in less time than it typically takes to get treated in an emergency room. Our facility is fully equipped and can relieve your back pain with the medical attention and treatment you need.
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Stop Looking For A Specific Diagnosis
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Stop focusing on a specific diagnosis. Up to 85% of low back pain can be classified as “non-specific.” This means that the origin of your pain cannot be localized to one specific structure or problem.
While common diagnostic tests for low back pain can show the bones, discs, and joints with great detail, no test can tell the exact cause of your pain with 100% accuracy.
How Do You Tell If Lower Back Pain Is Muscle Or Disc
The lower back and neck are the most flexible parts of your spine, and they’re also where most herniated discs occur. While pain in your mid-back may be related to a disc, it’s more likely caused by muscle strain or other issues. Your symptoms feel worse when you bend or straighten up from a bent position.
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Know Your Otc Medications
Nonprescription pain relievers can help with muscle aches and stiffness. The two main types of over-the-counter options are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and acetaminophen. NSAIDs include aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen.
True to their name, NSAIDs help lower inflammation that can lead to swelling and tenderness. But acetaminophen does not relieve inflammation. You can reach for either type of pain reliever for occasional back pain. NSAIDs may work a bit better, Hemani says, if you have arthritis of the spine or other inflammatory conditions.
Causes Of Sciatica Pain
The majority of sciatica pain is caused by the nerve becoming pinched due to compression of the lower back. This can occur by either a herniated disc, bone spur or even a tumor compressing on the nerve. Only a medical doctor or specialist can make a qualified diagnosis. If you suspect you have a damaged sciatic nerve, which type of specialist should you seek out to treat your sciatica pain?
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Remember: Alignment Is Key
No matter what position you choose, keeping proper alignment of your spine is the most important part of the equation. Focus specifically on aligning your ears, shoulders, and hips.
You may notice gaps between your body and the bed that strain your muscles and spine. You can reduce this stress by using pillows to fill the gaps.
Be careful while turning in bed. You can get out of alignment during twisting and turning motions as well. Always move your entire body together, keeping your core tight and pulled in. You may even find it helpful to bring your knees toward your chest as you roll over.
What Can I Do
Do you deal with lower back pain? Youre not alone.
The Global Burden of Disease study named lower back pain the leading cause of disability across the globe.
Whats even more interesting is that most back pain isnt caused by serious medical conditions, like cancer or arthritis. Instead, its often brought on by stress or strain from bad posture, awkward sleeping positions, and other lifestyle habits.
Here are the best sleeping positions to try if you have lower back pain, as well as some other things you can do to get a better nights rest.
If lying flat on your back feels uncomfortable, try shifting over to your side:
Whether you use one pillow or opt for two, you should resist the urge to always sleep on the same side. Doing so many cause issues like muscle imbalance and even scoliosis.
How does this position help? Sleeping on your side alone wont make you feel better. Its using the pillow between your knees thats the trick. The pillow will keep your hips, pelvis, and spine in better alignment.
If you have a herniated disc, you may want to try sleeping on your side curled in a fetal position:
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Stop Lifting Heavy Things
heshphoto / Getty Images
One of the top causes of low back pain is frequent heavy lifting. If your job requires that you lift heavy items, ask your employer if special equipment is available to help ease the load on your lower back.
This goes hand-in-hand with the next back pain no-norepetitive bending.
Seeking Relief: Will You Get Pain Medication
In the emergency room, doctors typically start with prescribing lower level medications. These are similar to the ones youd buy at the pharmacy. Often, they dont significantly reduce pain, and patients are disappointed.
Strong pain medications, like opioids and benzodiazepines, have tight restrictions for prescription, and are not routinely prescribed to people with back pain. Research has shown that medication such as opioids and benzodiazepines can be harmful when given as first-line treatments for back pain.
People often leave the ED unhappy because they dont get any relief or diagnosis for their pain . Patient review forms from the ED often say they didnt do anything for me.
If theres no medical emergency, the advice to stay as active as you can and to not even get an x-ray doesnt seem worth 5 hours in the waiting room.
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Where Can I Get More Information
For more information on neurological disorders or research programs funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, contact the Institute’s Brain Resources and Information Network at:
Office of Communications and Public LiaisonNational Institute of Neurological Disorders and StrokeNational Institutes of HealthBethesda, MD 20892
NINDS health-related material is provided for information purposes only and does not necessarily represent endorsement by or an official position of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke or any other Federal agency. Advice on the treatment or care of an individual patient should be obtained through consultation with a physician who has examined that patient or is familiar with that patient’s medical history.
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.
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Arthritis Of The Spine
Arthritis of the spine the slow degeneration of the spinal joints is the most frequent cause of lower back pain. All of us experience wear and tear as we age, and it is normal for your lower back to start acting up as you get older. As the cartilage breaks down between the spinal joints, surrounding tissues may become inflamed. The inflammation and the thinning of cartilage increase friction in the joints, which may cause pain in the lower back.
Seeking An Explanation: Will You Get Scans And Tests
If you go to emergency, you may have blood and urine tests, because theyre a good way to rule out anything nasty. They can quickly detect markers that tell doctors if you are fighting an infection, or theres a significant change to any of the systems that keep you alive, and if thats why youre hurting. They are there to rule out an emergency.
People almost always expect that they will get a scan or x-ray. The expectation that these tests will explain your pain, and why its severe today is not correct. Unless youve had a fall, a car accident, or some other trauma, or there are red flag symptoms present, you likely wont get scans, and probably wont gain much from a trip to the ED.
Emergency departments have limited resources, like MRI scanners, and they need to be available for emergencies. If someone comes into the ED with a possible stroke, and the scanner is being used by someone with back pain, theres a 30-60 minute wait for someone who is in a life and death situation.
What scans and x-rays tell doctors about pain is usually minimal. Its unusual for someone with back pain to have something thats found on a scan that changes the treatment and advice we usually give people.
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