You’ve Been In Pain For Over A Week
Most back pain will subside after a few days, but if you’ve been experiencing pain for over a week, then it’s time to call a doctor. Your doctor will perform any examinations or tests required to help get to the bottom of your pain before it could become a bigger problem. As is the case with many health conditions, prevention and addressing problems early is key.
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.
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
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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
Does Pelvic Floor Dysfunction Or Back Pain Come First
Its not always clear which comes first. A major role of the pelvic floor is to help stabilize the core and lower back, so when the back is in pain, the pelvic floor muscles may tighten to try and protect the sensitive area. This can overwork the pelvic floor, causing trigger points to form in the muscles and creating additional symptoms . In other cases, the pelvic floor dysfunction may have come first and altered the spine’s mobility and stability, thus triggering low back pain. Either way, there is a feedback loop where low back pain and pelvic floor dysfunction reinforce each other. Both must be addressed for full resolution of symptoms.
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Pain That Feels Better When Changing Positions
Depending on the underlying cause of pain, some positions will be more comfortable than others. For example, with spinal stenosis walking normally may be difficult and painful, but leaning forward onto something, such as a shopping cart, may reduce pain. How symptoms change with shifting positions can help identify the source of pain.
Old Accidents And Injuries
Remember that time you hurt your back in high school or that fender bender you had in your early 20s? Probably not. But those injuries can have a major impact on your back.
Its entirely possible that those old injuries never got the chance they needed to heal properly. And that puts your back at a disadvantage.
Youre more likely to get injured again or at least experience some aches and pains. Chiropractic treatments may be able to help you alleviate some of that discomfort and get your body on the right track to recovery.
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How Is Lumbar Strain Diagnosed
In addition to a complete medical history and physical exam, diagnosing low back pain may include the following. However, specialized tests aren’t often required.
- X-ray. A diagnostic test that produces images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.
- CT scan. This is an imaging test that uses X-rays and a computer to make detailed images of the body. It shows details of the bones, muscles, fat, and organs.
- MRI. This test uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to make detailed images of organs and structures in the body.
- Radionuclide bone scan. A nuclear imaging technique that uses a very small amount of radioactive material, which is injected into your blood to be detected by a scanner. This test shows blood flow to the bone and cell activity in the bone.
- Electromyogram . A test to evaluate nerve and muscle function.
How Long Does Lower Back Pain Usually Last
Lower back pain can be categorized as acute, subacute or chronic. Acute episodes of lower back pain usually last from a few days to 4 weeks and subacute lower back pain lasts between 4 to 12 weeks. However, according to the National Institutes of Health, about 20 percent of people with acute back pain go on to develop chronic back paindefined as pain that lasts 12 weeks or longer. Even in these cases, there are many different treatment options to help relieve lower back pain symptoms.
When your back is really killing you, you might worry something is seriously wrong. The same goes for back pain that seems unending. The good news is that while back pain is a major inconvenience, it is rarely an urgent medical issue. In fact, most of the time you dont have to treat it. Back pain usually resolves on its own unless you have a major underlying issue.
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Common Causes Of Chronic Lower Back Pain
“Chronic lower back pain is less likely to be caused by injury to your muscles and ligaments and more likely to be due to issues with the lumbar disks, nerves, joints or vertebrae,” says Dr. Palmer. “There are several potential causes of chronic pain in the lower back.”
In general, osteoarthritis and degenerative disk disease are the underlying cause of many types of chronic lower back pain. However, lower back pain can also be caused by accident-related trauma and acute stress.
How Do I Know If Pelvic Floor Dysfunction Is Causing My Low Back Pain
First of all, it’s extremely likely that pelvic floor dysfunction is at least contributing to back pain symptoms that won’t go away. In one study of chronic low back pain, 95% of people also had pelvic floor dysfunction! They had been getting treatment for years – orthopedic physical therapy, chiropracters, acupuncture, and even surgery – without results!
Because they weren’t getting to the underlying “why” of what was going on for lasting relief!
Other research has tied low back pain to urinary incontinence, with nearly 80% of women with chronic back pain reporting at least occasional incontinence.
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Symptoms That Require Immediate Attention
Sometimes low back pain can signal a serious underlying medical condition. People who experience any of the following symptoms are advised to seek immediate care.
- Loss of bladder and bowel control
- Recent weight loss not due to lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise
- Fever and chills
Additionally, people who experience pain symptoms after a major trauma are advised to see a doctor. If low back pain interferes with daily activities, mobility, sleep, or if there are other troubling symptoms, medical attention should be sought.
Chronic low back pain is usually correlated with other symptoms. Most people with ongoing low back pain and/or leg pain report difficulty with sleeping , depression and anxiety.
Examining Back Pain In Kids
Your childs doctor will first complete a physical examination of your child, which may include physical movements like bending to touch toes or twisting, and will ask several questions to determine the cause and location of the pain. Your childs doctor may also recommend additional tests, such as:
Once our pediatric spine specialists determine the specific injury or cause of your childs back pain, we may suggest treatment. Below are examples of treatment based on common sources of back pain in children:
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Two Back Pain Situations You Should Take Seriously Right Away No Delay
These two back pain scenarios might be medical emergencies. They do not necessarily mean something horrible is wrong, but its important to make sure.
Isnt it rather obvious that a potential spinal fracture is an emergency?
Youd think so. But consider this story of a motorcycle accident: many years ago, a friend hit a car that had pulled out from a side street. He flew over the car & landed on his head. Bystanders showed their ignorance of spinal fracture by, yikes, carelessly moving him. In fact, his thoracic spine was significantly fractured yet the hospital actually refused to do an X-ray because he had no obvious symptoms of a spinal fracture. Incredible! The next day, a horrified orthopedic surgeon ordered an X-ray immediately, confirming the fracture & quite possibly saved him from paralysis.
Pain + weakness in both legs as symptoms of cauda equina syndrome or not
That said, obviously you should be checked out if you are experiencing true saddle numbness.17 Even if its not CES, any significant malfunction of your plumbing should be taken seriously.
All Of The Worst Possible Causes Of Back Pain And Their Major Features
None of these are common. All of them usually cause serious symptoms that are easy to take seriously. Some of them can fly under the radar in early stages, but usually not for long. The names of the conditions link to carefully chosen articles from good sources.The worst possible causes of back pain
|what is it?
Finucane LM, Downie A, Mercer C, et al. International Framework for Red Flags for Potential Serious Spinal Pathologies. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2020 Jul 50:350372. PubMed #32438853
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When To See A Healthcare Provider
Back pain and swelling in the feet and legs that have not improved after one month warrants a visit with your healthcare provider to help determine the underlying cause. Having both symptoms at the same time without an injury to either your back, legs, or feet may indicate an underlying condition that needs to be treated.
If you exhibit significant pain, redness, warmth, and swelling in your legs, or experience fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea, you should seek immediate medical attention as these are signs of an infection.
Other Reading On Painsciencecom About Back Pain
- 6 Main Causes of Morning Back Pain Why is back pain worst first thing in the morning, and what can you do about it?
- 34 Surprising Causes of Pain Trying to understand pain when there is no obvious explanation.
- Dont Worry About Lifting Technique The importance of lift with your legs, not your back to prevent back pain has been exaggerated.
- Chronic Low Back Pain Is Not So Chronic The prognosis for chronic low back pain is better than most people realize especially for Australians in Australia!
- Spinal Subluxation Can your spine be out of alignment? Chiropractics big idea has been misleading patients for more than a century.
- Back Pain & Trigger Points A quick introduction to the role of trigger points in back pain
And the big one
- Complete Guide to Low Back Pain Everything on one mighty page: an extremely detailed guide to the myths, controversies, the nature of the beast and the highlight dozens of detailed, evidence-based reviews of treatment and therapy options. This huge tutorial also focusses on a topic I think is neglected: the role of muscle in back pain.
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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.
Muscle Strain And Ligament Sprain
A low back sprain or strain can happen suddenly, or can develop slowly over time from repetitive movements.
- Strains occur when a muscle is stretched too far and tears, damaging the muscle itself.
- Sprains happen when over-stretching and tearing affects ligaments, which connect the bones together.
For practical purposes, it does not matter whether the muscle or ligament is damaged, as the symptoms and treatment are the same.
Common causes of sprain and strain include:
- Lifting a heavy object, or twisting the spine while lifting
- Sudden movements that place too much stress on the low back, such as a fall
- Poor posture over time
- Sports injuries, especially in sports that involve twisting or large forces of impact
While sprains and strains do not sound serious and do not typically cause long-lasting pain, the acute pain can be quite severe.
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What Is The Outlook For People With Lower Back Pain
The outlook depends on the cause of pain. Most people with back strains and sprains recover and do not have long-term health issues. But many people will have another episode within a year.
Some people have chronic back pain that doesnt get better after several weeks. Older people with degenerative conditions such as arthritis and osteoporosis may have symptoms that get worse over time. Surgery and other treatments are effective at helping people with a range of injuries and conditions live pain-free.
Preventing Back Pain In Children
Back pain in secondary-school-age children has been linked to heavy schoolbags and ill-fitting classroom seating. Nearly half of all teenagers in the UK have experienced occasional backache from poor posture, carrying overloaded bags, and an unhealthy lifestyle.
The best schoolbag for your child is a well designed backpack. This should be worn over both shoulders to balance out the weight. A heavy satchel or shoulder bag can put stress on your childs spine.
Encourage your child to exercise regularly, or plan joint activities, such as a walk in the countryside or a trip to a swimming pool.
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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.
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