The good news is that back pain rarely represents an emergency situation, and is not usually the result of a serious medical problem. However, if you have back pain it can affect your entire life, and you’ll want to get it diagnosed and treated promptly
The medical professional you see about your back pain will begin your examination with some simple questions. He or she will want to know when the pain started, whether or not a specific event seemed to cause the pain, and where the pain hurts.
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Typically, the doctor will then physically examine you, noting if any specific movements or positions increase or reduce your pain. Your posture, the gait of your walk, and your range of motion will be observed. The doctor will likely feel the curvature of your spine, and check for any points that are particularly tender. The doctor may palpate your abdomen, so as to determine if your pain is caused by an internal organ, e.g. the pancreas.
A neurologic exam will be performed to test your reflexes, identify the distribution of your pain, measure muscle strength, and to highlight any sensory or motor issues
It’s also common for a doctor to order routine blood and urine lab tests, to help identify or rule out sources of pain such as infection.
If your doctor suspects that your pain may result from a fracture, or a herniated disc or other disc disorder, it is likely that he or she will send you for x-rays, and perhaps a CT scan, and/or MRI study.
Non-Surgical – Conservative Treatment
It is rare for back pain to require anything other than non-surgical treatment. There are many conservative treatments that can help reduce your back pain
Treatment may begin with rest for a day or two, coupled with medication to reduce the pain and any inflammation. Medications, of course, come in varying forms and strengths. Some are sold over the counter, and others require a prescription. Your doctor will carefully select the medication that is most suitable for your symptoms.
If you are experiencing significant neck pain, your doctor might prescribe a cervical collar. These collars are designed to support your head and limit movement, thus reducing the stresses on your neck, and giving it the opportunity to heal. In addition, you may be prescribed cervical traction to do at home. The traction will safely and gently pull your head so as to stretch out muscles and open nerve pathways.
Patients who are able to tolerate activity may be prescribed physical therapy (PT) to aid their recovery. PT may include heat or ice therapies to reduce pain and hasten soft tissue repair. Heat treatment is often given before a patient begins a session of therapeutic exercises. These exercises are designed to help you regain strength, increase your range of motion, restore your posture and even improve your balance and coordination.
Surgery – Rarely Needed
Back pain is rarely treated with surgery. However, if a patient is experiencing related symptoms, such as loss of bowel or bladder control, or their pain is excruciating and has not been helped by any non-operative treatments, then surgery may be considered