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.
When Is Lower Back Pain An Emergency
Most episodes of lower back pain eventually resolve on their own, but there are times when you should seek urgent medical attention. Some of these situations include:
- Patient is a child
- Pain is severe, constant, suddenly or progressively worsens, and/or doesnt go away
- Pain interrupts sleep
While some situations may warrant immediate intervention, most cases are not urgent and can be scheduled at a time convenient for the patient.
What Are Some Other Causes Of Lower Back Pain
The shape of your spine, and well as spinal diseases, are other culprits in lower back pain. Depending on a range of factors, your doctor may look for:
Abnormal spinal curvature. A normal spine resembles a gently curved letter S when seen from the side. Abnormal curves include:
- Lordosis, in which the spine curves too far inward at the lower back
- Kyphosis, in which the spine is abnormally rounded in the upper back
- Scoliosis, in which the spine curves from side to side, often in a C shape
Normal and abnormal curves of the spineArthritis. There are more than 100 types of arthritis, many of which can cause lower back pain. The most common types include osteoarthritis , rheumatoid arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis.
Cauda equina syndrome . Compression of the bundle of nerves that forms below the spinal cord in the lumbar spine. It is a rare but serious disorder that requires immediate medical attention and possibly emergency surgery. CES got its name from the fact that the fanned-out bundle of nerves resembles the base of a horses tail.
Discitis or osteomyelitis.Both infections of discs and bone can cause severe pain and require prompt medical attention.
Spinal tumors. When cells divide and multiply unchecked, the result is a tumor. Both benign and malignant tumors can cause lower back pain. They can either originate in the spine or metastasize there, meaning theyve spread from somewhere else in the body.
You May Like: Aleve For Lower Back Pain
Can Lower Back Pain Be Related To Weather
If you feel like your lower back pain worsens on days when its cold or the weather is changing, you are not imagining things. Back pain can indeed be related to barometric pressure and outdoor temperature. Changes in pressure can sometimes cause pain in arthritic joints, including the spine. Muscles and joints in general react to the environment, which can make them stiffer and more likely to suffer an injury.
Dont Miss: Mayo Clinic Lower Back Pain Exercises
Other Causes Of Back Pain
There are many other potential causes of back pain, but most are rare. Be sure to see a doctor if you experience regular back pain that does not go away.
After ruling out the more common causes of back pain, your doctor will perform tests to determine if you have a rarer cause. These can :
- one of the vertebrae moving out of place and onto a nearby vertebra, called degenerative spondylolisthesis
- loss of nerve function at the lower spinal cord, called cauda equina syndrome
- fungal or bacterial infection of the spine, such as Staphylococcus, E. coli, or tuberculosis
Back pain can have many symptoms, including:
- a dull, aching sensation in the lower back
- a stabbing or shooting pain that can radiate down the leg to the foot
- an inability to stand up straight without pain
- a decreased range of motion and reduced ability to flex the back
The symptoms of back pain, if due to strain or misuse, are usually short lived but can last for days or weeks.
Back pain is chronic when symptoms have been present for 3 months.
Don’t Miss: Exercise For Lower Back Pain Mayo Clinic
Which Lifestyle Factors Contribute To Lower Back Pain
There are three major lifestyle factors that may affect your chances of developing lower back pain:
- Multiple studies have established a link between smoking and lower back pain. Smoking raises inflammation inside the body and hinders the body from healing itself.
- Obesity is also associated with several types of chronic pain, including lower back pain. In people with high body mass index , the stress on the spine increases, contributing to even more wear and tear.
- Your level of physical activity can also play a role in your lower back health. While a sedentary lifestyle could increase your risk of developing lower back pain, so can excessive or strenuous physical activity. Check with your doctor if you are unsure about your ideal level of physical activity.
Lower Back Pain: Is It In Your Genes
One of the main reasons a person develops low back pain and another doesn’t may lie in their genes. With disc degeneration, Andersson says, âIf you take twins — one who is doing heavy physical work and one who is doing desk work — and you compare their MRI exams, they are essentially identical. This tells you that genetic factors are very important.â
If you have chronic low back pain, you’ve likely inherited the tendency, and you’re probably hardwired for it. The lower back contains sensitive receptors called nociceptive fibers, which send pain signals to the brain. “Some people have a lot of nociceptive fibers — for example, in their discs — while others have relatively few,” Wisneski tells WebMD. That may be why one person can lift heavy weights many times and never experience low back pain, while another who barely lifts anything is in constant agony.
Don’t Miss: Will Aleve Help With Back Pain
Lower Back Pain: How To Tell If Its Muscle
When a patient visits my office with back pain, its my job to uncover the pain generator. We talk through the patients history, discuss their symptoms, and make a determination as to next steps. If need be, I prepare their case to be looked at by a surgeon, but generally, my goal is to help patients avoid surgery and find relief with more conservative measures.
Most cases of back pain are not caused by serious conditions. But its important to always rule out the possibility that a patient has another internal issue that mimics back pain . Colitis, kidney stones, gallbladder issues, vascular problems, or an aneurysm are examples of serious conditions that are capable of causing pain to radiate into the back, making it feel like youre experiencing back pain.
A thorough fact-finding investigation should help determine the cause. When did the pain start? How long did it last? What makes it better or worse? Key to determining the pain generator is the patients description of their condition and their medical history. For example, if a patient describes the pain as having come on suddenly and causing nausea, nearly prompting a trip to the emergency room, then disappearing just as suddenly, they may be suffering from a kidney stone rather than back pain from a spinal condition.
- Muscle pain
- Disc pain
Lets take a look at each type in more detail.
Signs That Its Time To Call A Doctor For Your Back Pain
Most people have experienced back pain at some point in their lives. It’s actually the leading cause of disability worldwide and the most common reason people call out of work. Back pain can come in many different forms, ranging from a dull ache that lasts only a few days to severe pain that lasts for weeks.
Depending on the intensity of the pain, there are many treatments you can try at home to help. But how do you know when it’s time to stop home remedies and see a physician?
If any of the following applies to your back pain, then it’s time to make an appointment with a doctor as soon as possible.
Read Also: Is Advil Good For Back Pain
Treatment Options For Acute Lower Back Pain
Most low back pain is due to muscle strain and spasm and does not require surgery. To treat the pain, medications such as acetaminophen , nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents , gabapentin or pregabalin can be used. NSAIDs suppress inflammation, pain and fever by inhibiting certain inflammation-causing chemicals in the body. Acetaminophen reduces pain and fever, but does not inhibit inflammation. Gabapentin and pregabalin, medications that have been used for antiseizure activity, also have the ability to block pain. Opioids provide pain relief and may at times be prescribed to manage severe back pain. However, opioids have many problems, such as habituation, constipation and lightheadedness, and are avoided when possible and used for the shortest possible duration. Epidural injection is an option if the back pain does not respond to these treatments. Each person is different in terms of response to medication.
Other nonsurgical treatments for lower back pain include Intradiscal electrothermal therapy , nucleoplasty, and radiofrequency lesioning.
What Causes Back Pain In Ladies
Back pain is due to any of a number of conditions. Sometimes the pain is due to a problem in the spine or supporting muscles, ligaments and tendons. However, back pain can also be due a problem in another part of the body, and people experience what is called referred pain.Pain can occur in any area of the back too. It may be localized pain, like lower back pain or neck pain, or it may be widespread back pain. The general categories of causes for back pain in females include:
- Back sprain or strain,
- Medical condition like a bladder or kidney infection,
- Hormone fluctuations.
Girls with lower back problems are usually experiencing pain from a sports injury or an accident. In these cases, lower back pain is due to a pulled muscle or strained ligament. Carrying heavy backpacks is another cause of back pain in young people. Girls reaching puberty and menstruating may also experience back pain due to hormone changes. Being overweight or obese is yet another cause of back pain in children.
Recommended Reading: How Much Advil For Back Pain
Why Do We Feel Pain
Ouch! When you whack your toe against the table leg or throw out your back playing tennis, here’s how your body and brain let you know that you’ve been hurt.
Everyone has felt the ache of a stubbed toe, the twinge of a pulled muscle, or the throbbing of a bad headache but do you know why? The pain response we take for granted is actually a sophisticated and instantaneous chain reaction.
Pain happens for one simple reason: to protect you. If your brain registers pain, you typically stop doing what caused it. It goes back to the “fight or flight” instinct, says Sujittra Tongprasert, MD, an anesthesiologist with the University of Louisville Hospital in Kentucky. Pain is the body’s way of letting you know that what you are doing is harmful, and that you need to stop.
The Pain Process
Pain starts at the source of an injury or inflammation, whether it’s your toe or your lower back. When you injure yourself, the body’s automatic response is to stimulate pain receptors, which in turn release chemicals, says Dr. Tongprasert.
These chemicals, carrying the message Ouch, that hurts, go directly to the spinal cord. The spinal cord carries the pain message from its receptors all the way up to the brain, where it is received by the thalamus and sent to the cerebral cortex, the part of the brain that processes the message.
The Difference Between Acute and Chronic Pain
How Pain Can Change the Nervous System
You’re Having Problems With Your Bowels Or Urination
If your back pain is paired with a loss of control over your bowels or urination, then it’s time to seek help immediately at a local emergency room. These symptoms point to cauda equina syndrome, where the nerves in the lower spine have become paralyzed. While rare, this syndrome can be permanently damaging to the nerves if left untreated. If you experience these symptoms, especially accompanied by numbness in the legs, then you may need surgery to decompress the nerves and preserve their overall function.
You May Like: Back Pain Cleveland Clinic
Back Muscles That Cause The Most Back Pain
Back pain is one of the top reasons for missed work and second only to upper-respiratory infections for causing doctor visits.
Most of the time, back muscle pain is diagnosed then treated with little more than a prescription of rest, painkillers and muscle relaxants.
Follow this advice and youre taking one more step down the path to more serious back pain and possibly doctor-recommended back surgery to deal with it.
And its all because youve never been told why you have back muscle pain or how to get lasting relief by treating the cause rather than the symptoms.
That all ends today as we pull back the covers and see exactly what is going on why your back hurts which muscles are behind your back pain and most importantly, what you can do about it .
Can Lower Back Pain Be A Sign Of Something Serious Like Cancer
Lower back pain can be related to cancer. In fact, it is one of the first symptoms of prostate cancer when it metastasizes and creates lesions. Almost any cancer can spread to the back and some, like sarcoma, can originate in the back. Be cautious, especially if you are experiencing other symptoms besides lower back pain. Talk to your doctor if you have additional symptoms or concerns.
Recommended Reading: Mayo Clinic Lower Back Pain Exercises
What Doctor Should I See For Back Pain
If your back pain is from a recent strain or mild injury, your primary care doctor can probably help. But if the pain is severe, ongoing, or accompanied by other symptoms such as numbness or tingling in your arms or legs, it may be time to see a back doctor. Start with someone who specializes in nonsurgical treatment for back pain. This can include a physiatrist, chiropractor, physical therapist, or orthopaedic physician assistant. They can evaluate your condition and offer appropriate treatment to help alleviate your pain. Depending on your circumstances, they might also refer you to another type of back specialist — for example, a pain management specialist or spine surgeon.
Your Pain Extends To Other Body Parts
If you’re experiencing severe back pain that is coupled with pain in other areas such as shooting pain down your leg then you should see a doctor. This could be a sign that you have sciatica, a form of pain that affects the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back and through the buttocks before branching down each leg. This condition usually results from a herniated disk. A doctor will be able to offer a variety of ways that you can relieve this pain.
Don’t Miss: Aleve Or Ibuprofen For Back Pain
What Are Some Less Invasive Or Noninvasive Back Pain Treatments
Your doctor has a wide range of treatments that may help your lower back pain. In general, expect your doctor to take a stepped care approach. That means starting with simple, low-cost treatments and moving to more aggressive approaches later. Keep in mind that many treatments take time to reach their full effect.
Medications. When over-the-counter pills and topicals dont do enough to relieve back pain, your doctor may recommend a prescription drug. Examples include:
- Antiseizure medication, such gabapentin or pregabalin, for nerve-related pain
- Muscle relaxants, such as baclofen or carisoprodol
- Prescription NSAIDs, such as celecoxib, diclofenac, or fenoprofen
- Opioids, such as oxycodone or hydrocodone, on a short-term basis.
Physical therapy . PT for lower back pain involves passive and active therapies to help the patient build core muscle strength, improve spinal flexibility and range of motion, correct posture and more. Your physical therapy sessions may include:
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation
What Causes Upper Back Pain In Females
The upper back or thoracic spine is the area that starts at the base of the neck and extends to the bottom of the ribcage. Upper back pain in women is usually due to:
- Poor posture, like slouching or pushing the head forward while sitting or standing, causing misalignment of the spine.
- Muscle overuse or strain, usually due to repetitive motions or lifting items or children incorrectly.
- Injury to discs, muscles and/or ligaments.
- Myofascial pain.
Many instances of back pain are not serious. Minor strains and sprains will usually heal on their own. In a number of cases, correcting posture or getting more exercise to strengthen back tissues can prevent further instances of back pain.
Read Also: Is Aleve Or Ibuprofen Better For Back Pain
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.