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.
When Should I See My Healthcare Provider About Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain usually gets better with rest and pain relievers. Back pain that doesnt go away may be a sign of a more serious condition.
See your provider if you have:
- Pain that doesnt get better after about a week of at-home care.
- Tingling, numbness, weakness or pain in your buttocks or legs.
- Severe pain or muscle spasms that interfere with your normal activities.
- Fever, weight loss, bowel or bladder problems or other unexplained symptoms.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Millions of people live with low back pain. Stiffness, pain and limited movement can have a major impact on quality of life. But you may be able to avoid lower back pain by maintaining a healthy weight and staying active. Talk to your provider if back pain doesnt go away or if youre unable to do the activities you enjoy. Several treatments can relieve pain, help you move better and get more out of life.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/18/2021.
Home Treatment For Lower Back Pain
A lot of people will tell that theres no such thing as a home treatment for back pain. Theyll say that since back pain typically stems from a musculoskeletal disorder, it should be treated by a medical professional. But while some cases require specialized attention, most cases of lower back pain are simple to alleviate through targeted exercises and stretches.
This post will illustrate how to self-treat backache. Well provide a guide to practicing safe exercises so you dont hurt yourself any further.
There are several at-home treatments for lower back pain:
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What Is Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain is a very frequent ailment that may affect people of all ages and socioeconomic statuses, but its critical to understand what causes lower back pain in order to choose the best course of therapy. Lower back pain is often described as a dull ache or sharp shooting sensation and usually manifests itself as sciatica, lumbago, and even herniated disc.
The term lower back pain is an all-encompassing phrase that encompasses many different causes of pain, including herniated disc, damaged vertebrae, muscle spasms, and other painful conditions. But these are all essentially caused by the same underlying issue: inflammation.
Inflammation is the bodys response to injury to the soft body tissue. When the muscles in your back are strained or damaged, the surrounding tissue will swell up and create pain, particularly in the lower region of your back.
Is Lower Right Or Left Back Pain Worrisome
Pain on one side of the back is not particularly more worrisome than central pain. There are three main kinds of one-sided back pain:
Most of the anatomy of the low back and abdomen is symmetrical. Some of the guts are not symmetrical, and only some of those is a plausible cause of back pain on one side. Heres some of the key anatomy to consider:
The side of the pain on its own doesnt tell us much, and most of the one-sided sources of pain are viscera that usually cause abdominal pain instead of back pain, or in addition to it. In other words, the only reason to worry about right or left lower back pain is if it is otherwise worrisome: if you have other red flags or significant non-back symptoms.
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Pay Attention To Your Body Mechanics And Posture
Body mechanics are the way you use your body. Posture is the way you sit or stand.
- To prevent a return of low back pain, you will need to take extra care when you lift. When you must lift, bend your knees and flex from your hips. Don’t let your spine slump.
- Back Problems: Proper Lifting
Lower Back Pain When Walking Overweight
Lower back pain is a common health issue that affects millions of Americans each day. Common causes of lower back pain include injury, poor posture, or being overweight.
If you are overweight you can cause strain on your spine by bending over to tie your shoes or picking up objects off the ground. The weight of the body can put a strain on muscles and joints in the lower back which can lead to an injury.
Research has shown that regular activity, specifically walking is a good way to maintain a healthy weight and reduce your risk for heart disease. If you are overweight, losing weight is the best way to decrease your risk for developing health problems such as heart disease and stroke.
In addition, walking is an inexpensive form of exercise that is safe for most people. Walking with a regular walking program can be a positive step in your overall health and well-being.
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Low Back Pain Fact Sheet
If you have had lower back pain, you are not alone. Back pain is one of most common reasons people see a doctor or miss days at work. Even school-age children can have back pain.
Back pain can range in intensity from a dull, constant ache to a sudden, sharp or shooting pain. It can begin suddenly as a result of an accident or by lifting something heavy, or it can develop over time as we age. Getting too little exercise followed by a strenuous workout also can cause back pain.
There are two types of back pain:
- Acute, or short-term back pain lasts a few days to a few weeks. Most low back pain is acute. It tends to resolve on its own within a few days with self-care and there is no residual loss of function. In some cases a few months are required for the symptoms to disappear.
- Chronic back pain is defined as pain that continues for 12 weeks or longer, even after an initial injury or underlying cause of acute low back pain has been treated. About 20 percent of people affected by acute low back pain develop chronic low back pain with persistent symptoms at one year. Even if pain persists, it does not always mean there is a medically serious underlying cause or one that can be easily identified and treated. In some cases, treatment successfully relieves chronic low back pain, but in other cases pain continues despite medical and surgical treatment.
Treating Lower Back Pain: How Much Bed Rest Is Too Much
Back pain is one of the most common reasons why people visit a health care provider. The good news is that the pain often goes away on its own, and people usually recover in a week or two. Many people want to stay in bed when their back hurts. For many years, getting bed rest was the normal advice. But current studies recommend no bed rest at all and stress that staying in bed longer than 48 hours not only wont help but it may, in fact, actually delay your recovery. Heres why:
Staying in bed wont help you get better faster.If youre in terrible pain, lying down for a day to help ease the distress may seem like a good idea, but moderating your activities and staying active in a limited way is a more effective way to control your symptoms. Research suggests that if you can find comfortable positions and keep moving, you may not need bed rest at all.Research shows that:
- Lying down longer than a day or two day isnt helpful for relieving back pain.
- People can recover more quickly without any bed rest.
- The sooner you start moving, even a little bit, or return to activities such as walking, the faster you are likely to improve.
Who needs bed rest?Almost no one! The only people who might require time in bed are those with unstable spinal fractures awaiting surgery.
When should I see a health care provider?You should see your health care provider right away if:
- Heat or ice
Check with your health care provider before starting an exercise program.
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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.
What Are The Risk Factors For Developing Low Back Pain
Anyone can have back pain. Factors that can increase the risk for low back pain include:
Age: The first attack of low back pain typically occurs between the ages of 30 and 50, and back pain becomes more common with advancing age. Loss of bone strength from osteoporosis can lead to fractures, and at the same time, muscle elasticity and tone decrease. The intervertebral discs begin to lose fluid and flexibility with age, which decreases their ability to cushion the vertebrae. The risk of spinal stenosis also increases with age.
Fitness level: Back pain is more common among people who are not physically fit. Weak back and abdominal muscles may not properly support the spine. Weekend warriorspeople who go out and exercise a lot after being inactive all weekare more likely to suffer painful back injuries than people who make moderate physical activity a daily habit. Studies show that low-impact aerobic exercise can help maintain the integrity of intervertebral discs.
Weight gain: Being overweight, obese, or quickly gaining significant amounts of weight can put stress on the back and lead to low back pain.
Genetics: Some causes of back pain, such as ankylosing spondylitis , have a genetic component.
Smoking: It can restrict blood flow and oxygen to the discs, causing them to degenerate faster.
Backpack overload in children: A backpack overloaded with schoolbooks and supplies can strain the back and cause muscle fatigue.
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How Is Lower Back Pain Diagnosed
Your provider will ask about your symptoms and do a physical exam. To check for broken bones or other damage, your provider may order imaging studies. These studies help your provider see clear pictures of your vertebrae, disks, muscles, ligaments and tendons.
Your provider may order:
- Spine X-ray, which uses radiation to produce images of bones.
- MRI, which uses a magnet and radio waves to create pictures of bones, muscles, tendons and other soft tissues.
- CT scan, which uses X-rays and a computer to create 3D images of bones and soft tissues.
Electromyography to test nerves and muscles and check for neuropathy , which can cause tingling or numbness in your legs.
Depending on the cause of pain, your provider may also order blood tests or urine tests. Blood tests can detect genetic markers for some conditions that cause back pain . Urine tests check for kidney stones, which cause pain in the flank .
Stretch And Strengthen Your Back
When you no longer have acute pain, you may be ready for gentle strengthening exercises for your stomach, back, and legs, and perhaps for some stretching exercises. Exercise may not only help decrease low back pain but also may help you recover faster, prevent reinjury to your back, and reduce the risk of disability from back pain.
Walking is the simplest and perhaps the best exercise for the low back. Your doctor or a physical therapist can recommend more specific exercises to help your back muscles get stronger. These may include a series of simple exercises called core stabilization. The muscles of your trunk, or core, support your spine. Strengthening these muscles can improve your posture, keep your body in better balance, and decrease your chance of injury.
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Lower Back Pain When Walking Pregnant
Suffer from lower back pain when walking during pregnancy? A Swedish study found that women who walked the equivalent of a mile a day during their third trimester were less likely to suffer from chronic lower back pain in the months following delivery. Its recommended that pregnant women walk for exercise, but with this great news comes some bad news. You should probably take extra care of your back while youre pregnant and use ergonomic seating, such as spreading your weight across more than one point on the floor.
Believe it or not, your back is more important than you think during pregnancy. The nervous system develops early on in the fetal stage, and some neural developments are incomplete by the time of birth. These nerve systems start developing near the end of the first trimester and end near the end of your second trimester. In some cases, nerves that control muscles may not be fully formed yet at birth. This is why its important to take care of your back during pregnancy to ensure that your baby is getting the proper nervous system development.
General lower back pain: According to WebMD, general lower back pain occurs in up to 80% of pregnant women, but you should keep in mind that the same symptoms dont affect all pregnant women. Some experience pain during pregnancy, known as sciatica, which can be felt down one or both legs. The symptoms usually go away after delivery.
What Home Remedies For Lower Back Pain Actually Work
Unless youve had a major injury, such as a fall or car accident, you probably dont need to rush to the doctor for back pain. You may want to try these simple self-care strategies first.
Avoid bed rest. When lower back pain strikes, people often think complete rest will relieve back pain. However, a review of many clinical studies found that patients who retreated to bed actually experienced more pain and recovered more slowly than patients who stayed fairly active
Use ice and/or heat. Many people find that using ice or cold packs for periods of up to 20 minutes at a time helps reduce pain and swelling. Always wrap ice or a cold pack in a thin towel before putting it on your body so you dont injure your skin. You may also find that heat, such as a heating pad or warm bath, eases pain. Ice is recommended in the first 48 hours after injury then you can try a combo of ice and heat.
Try over-the-counter remedies. Short-term use of OTC pain relievers, such as the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs ibuprofen and naproxen, may ease your lower back pain. Also consider OTC creams, gels, patches, or sprays applied to the skin. They stimulate the nerves in the skin to provide feelings of warmth or cold in order to dull the sensation of pain.
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Common Causes Of Back Pain
Two of the most common reasons for back are muscle strains or ligament sprains. and bad posture can put on your back and make it hurt. and other changes in your spine as you get older can cause back pain. More serious causes of the condition include a ruptured disc or . Possible causes of back pain include:
, when the soft center of spinal disc slips out of place
, a disease that thins and weakens bones including the vertebrae
, a bone infection
, arthritis in the spine
Sacroiliitis, inflammation of the joint between the pelvis and lower spine