Chronic Back Pain Guide: How to Determine If Your Back Pain Requires Medical Attention by Dr. Gbolahan Okubadejo
Our spine and the structures around it serves to stabilize the body. The back is central to our mobility, our ability to properly train our physical fitness and carry out essential tasks. The lower back, in particular, tends to compensate for our imbalances and ends up bearing the weight of heavy lifting.
It is important to observe and listen to your body. When the alarm of back pain goes of this can be anything from a simple strain to damage of joints, muscles or other soft tissues. Back pain can be disruptive to your health and quality of life, so it is essential to know when it's time to go in for medical attention in order to assess, diagnose and treat the underlying causes of back pain.
Many patients think for a long time that their back pain is natural or that it has to do with getting older. It isn't until mobility is compromised or pain becomes unbearable that they consider going to a back pain specialist. This can be because of a lack of knowledge about back pain or fear of hearing something one doesn't want to hear.
Think of back pain as the body's signal for help.
Recovery from back pain depends on how long you wait and how bad you allow the pain to get before consulting with a professional. If over-the-counter medications and other forms of self-remedy like stretching and rest are no longer helping to reduce the pain, it is time to see the doctor.
I advise my patients to take notes of where in the back they feel pain and when the pain appears and amplifies.
- Does it hurt when you bend down?
- Are you experiencing pain when walking or getting up from the couch?
- Is there a correlation between lifting heavy objects and your back pain?
All of these things can help shorten the search for the root cause of the pain you are experiencing.
The doctor recommends against waiting too long to seek an assessment. Waiting until the pain is too severe can compromise your physical ability, your overall back health and reduce the odds of a full recovery. Don't ignore warning signs, like pain radiating down into your hips and legs that may indicate your condition is worsening.
Possible Causes of Back Pain
Acute back pain refers to pain that is sharp and develops suddenly. It is often the outcome of minor muscle strains within the supportive structures of the lower back. This kind of pain can get better with over-the-counter pain relief and proper home care. However, when medications and proper care don't effectively control the pain any longer, this can mean that something more precarious is going on.
Chronic lower back pain refers to back pain that is sustained over extended periods of time. Chronic lower back pain can result from a degenerative disease or another condition requiring evaluation and proper treatment.
There are a number of conditions that have to be ruled out to determine what is causing the chronic pain. We have to look at the possibility of:
Each condition can produce the pain that patients feel, and it will worsen over time and lead to disability if left unattended. By understanding what's causing your lower pain, patients can learn to manage the pain while protecting the lumbar region.
Treating Back Pain
Can you treat back pain early? Yes, the sooner you get help, the less invasive the treatments have to be. The goal is to treat the condition early to avoid spine surgery.
Some initial strategies may include steroid injections to reduce pain and inflammation in the affected region. Once the pain has subsided, patients are able to engage in a more proactive physical therapy regimen to keep the muscles surrounding the back strong and flexible. This reduces the prospects of continued pain or injury.
If your back pain has become unmanageable, schedule an evaluation with a doctor specializing in back pain.
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