How Is Low Back Pain Diagnosed
A complete medical history and physical exam can usually identify any serious conditions that may be causing the pain. Neurologic tests can help determine the cause of pain and appropriate treatment. Imaging tests are not needed in most cases but may be ordered to rule out specific causes of pain, including tumors and spinal stenosis. Occasionally the cause of chronic lower back pain is difficult to determine even after a thorough examination.
Blood tests are not routinely used to diagnose the cause of back pain but might be ordered to look for signs of inflammation, infection, cancer, and/or arthritis.
Bone scans can detect and monitor an infection, fracture, or bone disorder. A small amount of radioactive material is injected into the bloodstream and collects in the bones, particularly in areas with some abnormality. Scanner-generated images can identify specific areas of irregular bone metabolism or abnormal blood flow, as well as to measure levels of joint disease.
Discography involves injecting a contrast dye into a spinal disc thought to be causing low back pain. The fluids pressure in the disc will reproduce the persons symptoms if the disc is the cause. The dye helps to show the damaged areas on CT scans taken following the injection.
Electrodiagnostics can identify problems related to the nerves in the back and legs. The procedures include:
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.
Lower Back Pain During Your Period: Causes Diagnosis And Treatment
Many people experience bloating, headaches, and abdominal pain during their period. Another common symptom that people experience during their period is lower back pain. This pain often occurs as part of premenstrual syndrome . Less commonly, it can occur as a result of diseases such as endometriosis.
Back pain caused by your period may range from mild discomfort to debilitating pain that interferes with daily activities. Back pain associated with your period can start a few days before it starts and get better after your period is over. This type of back pain is typically muscular and caused by hormonal changes. Lets discuss how to manage lower back pain before, during, and after your period.
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Can A Fertilized Egg Cause Lower Back Pain
You may also get cramps and back pain from an ectopic pregnancy. In this condition, a fertilized egg attaches itself somewhere other than inside the uterus for instance, the fallopian tubes. The symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy may be abdominal cramps, lower back pain, abnormal bleeding, nausea, and shoulder pain.
Treatment For Lower Abdominal Cramping
Many people experience mild cramping that may later go away on its own. Some mild symptoms are relieved with a few home remedies such as:
- Taking a rest
- Applying heat to the lower abdomen
- Relaxing exercises and deep breathing
- Doing yoga
- Taking over-the-counter medications like pain relievers, antacids, or laxatives
- Taking herbal tea
- Eating rice, bananas, applesauce, and plain crackers
- Avoiding strenuous abdominal exercises
- Avoiding coffee, alcohol, carbonated beverages
- Avoiding eating solid foods for a while
One should consider seeking medical advice when symptoms worsen or persist even after taking some home remedies. You should see a doctor immediately if you also have moderate to severe symptoms like persistent vomiting, diarrhea, bleeding and high fever. Some of these conditions may be life-threatening, leading to conditions like ectopic pregnancy, ruptured spleen, or abdominal aortic aneurysm, which must be treated as emergencies.
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What Does It Mean If Lower Back Pain Is Shooting Into Legs
Lower back pain can radiate to other parts of the body: up or down from its place of origin. Sometimes lower back pain can be on one side of the back, which is also normal.
If the pain is shooting from the lower back into one or both legs, it could be sciatica , but its not always the case. There are many parts in the lower back that may cause the pain to radiate into the legs, such as facet joints, sacroiliac joints, muscles or inflammation of the bursa.
What Causes Back Cramps
Back cramps can be painful and debilitating, and can be caused by a number of different things. Injury to the back, such as a pulled muscle, is one of the most common causes of back cramps. Poor posture, overexertion through exercise, improper lifting methods, or even menstrual cramps can all cause back pain as well, however, in addition to issues with the vertebrates of the spine.
The most common cause of back cramps is physical injury. It is easy to injure the back if one does not warm up properly before exercising, or if one attempts to lift something that is too heavy. Before lifting anything, it is important to bend from the knees, and to be sure to use the muscles of the arms and chest rather than the back. Ideally, the lower back should not be used at all when doing any heavy lifting.
In addition, though it is important to stretch after every workout, it is important to stretch properly. Hinge from waist, for example, feeling the stretch in the back of the legs. Do not round the upper back or overextend the lower back it is all too easy to pull a muscle when trying to stretch in that manner. If back pain does not appear to be muscular in nature, it may be necessary to visit a doctor to rule out any spinal problems.
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How Do You Get Rid Of A Back Cramp
If you want to get rid of back pains or cramps, contract your abdominal muscles and put your right leg over your left knee in a resting position. Then, take the left thigh with your hands and get your legs towards your body. Keep this position for 30 seconds, and get your legs to your starting position. Repeat the same process on your other side.
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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Why Does Your Stomach Hurt
Stomach cramps can range from mild achiness to severe, stabbing pain.
Common causes of stomach cramps include eating foods that can irritate your stomach, constipation, food poisoning, or a stomach infection. People who have anxiety may also develop stomach cramps.
Pregnant people may experience stomach cramps as the fetus grows. Menstrual cramps are also very common, though they actually take place in the uterus.
Sometimes stomach cramps are constant. In this case, a chronic digestive illness, such as irritable bowel disease, may be the cause.
Most stomach cramps go away on their own within a few hours or a couple of days. Changing what you eat and taking over-the-counter medication can help with symptoms while you recover.
Some stomach cramps may require medical attention. You should be concerned about stomach cramps if they last for a week or longer or are so severe that you cant function, or you also have symptoms like fever or blood in your vomit or stool.
When To Seek Immediate Medical Advice
There are two situations where leg cramps may be a sign of a more serious underlying health condition.
You should seek immediate medical help if:
- The cramps last longer than 10 minutes and fail to improve, despite exercise.
- Cramps develop after you come into contact with substances that could be toxic or infectious, for example, if you have a cut that is contaminated with soil, which can sometimes cause a bacterial infection, such as tetanus, or after being exposed to elements such as mercury or lead.
In these circumstances, contact your GP for advice immediately. If this isn’t possible, contact your local out-of-hours service or call the NHS 24 ‘111’ service.
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What Can I Do For Low Back Pain At Home
If your lower back pain has just started, the best thing you can do is start a log. Record your symptoms, times, dates and which activities trigger the pain or make it worse or better. Take this information to your family physician if the pain doesnt resolve on its own. It will make diagnosing the cause much easier.
Once you know which motion or position causes your lower back pain, try to avoid it and see if you get better. Icing the painful spot can also help. And so can over-the-counter pain relievers that help reduce inflammation. Just remember that pain killers treat only the symptom pain and not its cause.
Who Should I See For Lower Back Pain
Your primary care physician knows you best and should be your first contact for lower back pain. If he or she is unable to diagnose or treat the issue, you may get referred to a specialist, such as a rehabilitation physician . These specialists practice a comprehensive approach to lower back pain, and can diagnose and treat a variety of conditions that have lower back pain as a symptom.
Later, you may get referred to a physical therapist, a chiropractor or another practitioner depending on the nature of your back pain. The good news is that surgery is rarely needed for lower back pain. Only about one in ten patients needs lower back surgery, Chhatre says.
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Other Conditions That Cause Back Pain In Older Adults
We often see a range of less serious but still painful spine conditions in seniors. Most patients with these conditions will not require surgery. Physical therapy, medication, injectable anesthetics, or a combination of treatments usually can control symptoms.
- Degenerative disc disease, which can cause whole spine pain, and lumbar arthritis, which usually causes low-back pain, commonly develop with age and are considered wear-and-tear conditions.
- Sacroiliitis is an inflammation of the joints that connect your spine and pelvis. This condition can cause pain in the low back, glutes, and upper legs.
- Ankylosing spondylitis is an inflammatory arthritis that causes patients spines to become inflexible, resulting in a continual hunched forward position and spine pain.
- We also check for adult degenerative scoliosis and kyphosis, spine-curving conditions that can result in back pain and weakness in the lower extremities.
Possible Causes Of Lower Back Pain When Walking
There are many possible causes of lower back pain when walking. Your posture and your form while walking can affect the way your back and spine feel. Injury factors like muscle sprain, muscle strain, sciatica, and disc injury can also cause discomfort.
Furthermore, certain chronic medical conditions can require medical attention, emergency care, or spine surgery. These include:
- Degenerative disc disease
- Spinal stenosis
- Cauda Equina Syndrome
In order to assess the type of treatment you require, your doctor will need to determine what is causing your back pain. Here are some possible causes of lower back pain when walking.
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How Is Back Pain Diagnosed
Most people who develop low back pain that comes on suddenly have nonspecific low back pain. If there are no other associated symptoms and the pain is not too bad, many people are confident to just ‘get on with it’ and treat it themselves – and indeed most get better quickly. However, if in doubt, see your doctor for a check-over and advice.
A doctor will usually want to ask questions about your symptoms and to examine you. Basically, the symptoms are usually as described above, with no other worrying symptoms to suggest anything serious or another cause of back pain . The examination by a doctor will not detect anything to suggest a more serious cause of back pain. Therefore, a doctor can usually be confident from his or her assessment that you have nonspecific back pain.
As a general guide, if any of the following occur then it may not be nonspecific low back pain, and there may be a more serious underlying cause. But note: the vast majority of people with low back pain do not have any of the following symptoms or features. They are included here for completeness and as an aid to what to look out for and to tell your doctor should they occur.
Psychological Stress Can Cause Back Pain
Though it might seem hard to believe, mental or emotional distress may be the reason you are experiencing back pain. In fact, there is a long list of physical symptoms that have been proven to be associated with stress and anxiety, including:
- Low libido
Stress itself is the bodys reaction to certain usually unpleasant situations or thoughts. You may not realize it, but when you are feeling stressed or anxious, there are chemical and physical reactions taking place in your body to try and protect you from harm. Cortisol and adrenaline are released, and there is typically an involuntary tightening of your muscles. This often occurs in the neck, shoulders, and down the spine. Prolonged tension in these areas can lead to back pain and, more specifically, lower back pain. You may have had a massage therapist tell you that you hold a lot of tension in your shoulders, and this phenomenon is what they are referencing.
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What Causes Lower Back Pain In Women
Lower back pain doesnt have one specific cause. There is more to this problem than strains and sprains or pregnancy. As mentioned above, some people dont even know what causes pain in this area, but finding out is crucial in order to improve the quality of life and alleviate discomfort you experience.
Since lower back pain in women has a wide array of different causes and some of them arent even related to your back, well assess the most common factors separately below.
*All individuals are unique. Your results can and will vary.
When To See A Specialist For Lower Back Pain
If you’re experiencing lower back pain that’s not responding to rest and self-care, it’s time to consider seeing a spine specialist.
“A spine specialist will likely perform a physical exam as well as one or more imaging scans to diagnose the root cause of your lower back pain. Depending on your diagnosis, he or she will then design a treatment plan aimed at alleviating your pain and preventing it from disrupting the everyday activities you enjoy,” says Dr. Palmer.
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