The Truths Behind Back Pain
By Orthopaedic and Neurology Clinic
Back pain can be the result of trauma, such as a fall or a car accident. But most often it is the result of an everyday activity done incorrectly — activities as common as twisting to reach or lift an object, sitting at a computer in the same position for hours, bending over to vacuum, and carrying shopping bags.
What are some symptoms of a back pain?
Back pain that comes on suddenly and lasts no more than six weeks (acute) can be caused by a fall or heavy lifting. Pain in the back that lasts more than three months (chronic) is less common than acute pain.
Signs and symptoms of back pain can include:
- Muscle ache
- Shooting or stabbing pain
- Pain that radiates down your leg
- Back pain that worsens with bending, lifting, standing or walking
- Pain that improves with reclining action
“Backache is one of the most common reasons for missed work. In fact, back pain is the second most common reason for visits to the doctor’s office, outnumbered only by upper-respiratory infections.”
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What types of diagnosis?
Our doctor may ask and conduct one or more of the following tests to determine whether you have sciatica nerve pain:
- History of symptoms. Sciatica is a symptom that varies from one person to another and depends on the condition that’s causing it. To diagnose sciatica, our doctor will first want to get your full medical history. This includes whether you have had any recent injuries, where you feel the pain, and how the pain feels.
- Physical examination. Our doctor will include testing your muscle strength and reflexes. He might also ask you to do some stretching and moving exercises to determine which activities cause more pain.
- Electromyography or EMG. This measures the electrical impulses produced by nerves in response to muscles. Therefore it can confirm nerve compression, which may occur with a herniated disk or spinal stenosis.
- X-rays. This can show the alignment of the bones and detect signs of arthritis or broken bones, but they may not reveal damage in the muscles, spinal cord, nerves, or disks.
- MRI, CT scan. These scans can reveal herniated disks or problems with tissue, tendons, nerves, ligaments, blood vessels, muscles, and bones.
- Bone scans. This can detect bone tumors or compression fractures caused by osteoporosis. A radioactive substance or tracer is injected into a vein. The tracer collects in the bones and helps the doctor detect bone problems with the aid of a special camera.
Possible treatment methods?
The treatment of back pain depends entirely on the cause of the problem. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that you understand the cause of your symptoms before embarking on a treatment program. If you are unsure of your diagnosis, or the severity of your condition, you should seek medical advice before beginning any treatment.
Our therapist will apply heat, ice, ultrasound, and electrical stimulation — as well as some muscle-release techniques to the back muscles and soft tissues — may help alleviate pain.
As the pain improves, our physical therapist may introduce some flexibility and strength exercises for the back and abdominal muscles. Techniques for improving posture may also help.
The patient will be encouraged to practice the techniques regularly, even after the pain has gone, to prevent back pain recurrence.
Medication for Back Pain
Depending on the type of back pain you have, our doctor might recommend the following:
- Pain relievers. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs might relieve acute back pain.
- Muscle relaxants. If mild to moderate back pain doesn’t improve with pain relievers, our doctor might also prescribe a muscle relaxant. Muscle relaxants can make you dizzy and sleepy.
- Injections. If other measures don’t relieve your pain, and if your pain radiates down your leg, our doctor may inject an anti-inflammatory medication.
Contact our doctor if your back pain:
- Is severe and doesn’t improve with rest
- Spreads down one or both legs, especially if the pain extends below the knee
- Causes weakness, numbness or tingling in one or both legs
- Is accompanied by unexplained weight loss
Also, see our doctor if you start having back pain for the first time after age 50, or if you have a history of cancer, osteoporosis, steroid use, or excessive drug or alcohol use.