Back and spine pain is one of the most common causes for doctor visits in the United States. In fact, about 50 million Americans currently suffer from chronic back pain. This type of pain most often occurs between the ages of 30 and 50, and is the number one reason adults under the age of 45 miss work. If you’re dealing with this debilitating condition, you’re definitely not alone.
Back pain can arise from a variety of causes, including exercise, particularly running, tennis and weight lifting, gynecological conditions such as endometriosis, menstrual cramps, fibroid tumors or being pregnant, or even from common household tasks like gardening or cleaning. Most types of back pain are often caused by a simple sprain or strain. These injuries occur when the ligaments or muscles of the back, which become less flexible as we age or become more sedentary, are overworked. Pain also comes from normal wear and tear on the body, decreased bone mass or disk problems.
When is back pain an emergency?
In most cases, back pain subsides after a few days of rest and basic self-care like icing or heating the affected area. In other cases, back pain can be an emergency. You should seek prompt medical attention if:
- Your back pain results from an injury or fall.
- The pain remains severe even after resting or taking medication.
- You have loss of control in your legs or arms, tingling, or numbness, which could be signs of a spinal cord injury.
- Your back pain results in loss of bowel or bladder control.
If any of these signs are present, dial 9-1-1 or visit your nearest emergency room.
Treatment and relief
When cases of back pain aren’t considered an emergency, a doctor can usually diagnose and treat it in the office. He or she may first prescribe muscle relaxants and a brief period of rest, followed by light activity, which can aid recovery and healing.
If pain does not respond to treatment, imaging tests such as an X-ray may be needed to determine if the cause of the pain is due to arthritis or another bone disease. Other diagnostic tests are used to determine if the pain is caused by a problem with soft tissue. Doctors may also suggest physical rehabilitation to increase flexibility and muscle strength.
In most cases, surgery is not needed. Some cases that may require surgery include disk problems or severe arthritis. Many who are suffering from lower back pain assume that there is no cure and wait too long to see a doctor. If your back is aching, please don’t wait. Talk to your doctor and you’ll be back on track before you know it.
Sources: MedlinePlus.gov, NIH.gov
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