Back pain is a common complaint. Most people will experience lower back pain at least once during their lives. Back pain is also one of the most common reasons people go to the doctor or miss work. Most back pain gradually improves with home treatment and self-care. Although the pain may take several weeks to disappear completely, you should notice some improvement within the first 72 hours of self-care. If not, see your doctor.
Back pain usually originates from the muscles, nerves, bones, joints or other structures in the spine. The onset of back pain may be acute or chronic. It can be constant or intermittent, stay in one place or radiate to other areas. It may be characterized by a dull ache, or a sharp or piercing or burning sensation. Back pain may be classified by various methods to aid its diagnosis and management. The anatomic classification of back pain follows the segments of the spine: cervical, thoracic, lumbar or sacral.
Symptoms of Back Pain
Many people have experienced some form of back pain at some point in their lives. There are many causes of back pain, from self-inflicted causes due to bad habits, to back pain caused by muscle strains, accidents, or sports injuries. Despite the causes of the back pain a person experiences, the symptoms may be the same.
Symptoms people with back pain experience might include:
• A persistent stiffness or aching along their spine, from the base of their neck to their hips.
• Sharp, localized pains in their lower back, upper back, or neck, - particularly after lifting heavy objects or after other strenuous activity.
• Chronic aches in their lower or middle back, particularly after sitting or standing for lengthy periods of time.
• Back pains which radiate from their lower back to their buttocks, down their back of their thighs, and into their calves and toes.
• An inability to stand up straight without experiencing oftentimes severe muscle spasms in their low back.
If you experience back pain, it is important to contact a doctor if you:
• Experience numbness, tingling, or loss of control in your arms or legs. These may be signs of signal damage to your spinal cord.
• Experience pain in your back that extends downward along the back of the leg. You may be suffering from sciatica.
• Experience pain that increases whenever you bend forward at the waist, or cough. The reason this needs to be looked at by a doctor is because it could be a sign of a herniated disc.
• Experience pain that is accompanied by burning urination, strong-smelling urine, or fever. You could have a bacterial urinary tract infection.
• Experience urinary or fecal incontinence.
• Experience dull pain in one particular area of your spine whenever you lie down or get out of bed. People who are over the age of fifty may have osteoarthritis.
Diagnosing Back Pain
A doctor will test your range of motion in relation to the back pain you are experiencing, unless you are completely immobilized by a back injury, and test for both areas of discomfort and nerve function. The doctor will most likely do some tests such as urine and blood testing in order to determine whether the back pain is due to either an infection or a systemic problem. X-rays may be taken to determine if you have any broken bones or skeletal issues that are the cause of your back pain; they can also help to locate issues with connective tissues. Soft-tissue damages that may be the cause of back pain can be analyzed using Computed Tomography (CT) or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans. Nerve and muscle damage can be determined through Electromygram (EMG) tests.