Diagnosing Back Pain: Is it Time to See a Professional?

Do you know the problem with trying to diagnose your own back pain? For starters, all you know is that your back hurts. When you sit, stand, roll over or try to stretch, it just hurts. You may think you can ignore the pain in hopes it will go away. This is fine if back pain is a rare occurrence in your life, brought on only after attending to a back-breaking chore. But, once back pain becomes a routine part of your day, you need a medical professional to get a proper diagnosis and treatment.

You know, a little knowledge can be dangerous. Many of us are ” armchair physicians” when it comes to healing our own wounds. When your back first begins to hurt, you may put heat on to relax the muscles or ice packs on to reduce the inflammation and dull the pain. This is not necessarily a bad thing UNTIL you realize that your back pain hasn’t lessened. Worse yet, you misdiagnosed the cause of your back pain and you’re icing a knotted muscle and heating an inflamed joint.

One of the main reasons to consult a physician about your back pain is because it can be caused by things other than the run-of-the-mill suspects like injury, strain, exercise, or excess weight.

As an example, your kidneys lie against your back outside of the abdominal cavity. Kidney stones and kidney infections can cause pain in the back. Assuming your lingering back pain can be stretched out or cured with ice packs could be dangerous.

What will your doctor do to diagnose your back pain?

Rather than make assumptions, your doctor will begin by asking you a series of questions meant to zero in on a few clues about the origin of your back pain:

  1. How long have you had your pain?
  2. What does it feel like? Is it sharp or dull?
  3. When does the pain occur? Sitting? Standing? Lying down?
  4. How have you managed the pain so far?

Now, the detective work begins. Your doctor will perform various tests, based on your answers, to diagnose the cause of your back pain. This series of tests is the best way to come up with a helpful treatment.

Making a Visual Diagnosis of Back Pain – The doctor will have you stand and look at your back. He can evaluate your posture, feel for any bulges in the back or areas that are sensitive to pain. This can be done during your initial visit.

X-rays for Examining Back Pain – This is the only way to see your bones. The doctor can check the bones of the vertebrae and the surrounding supporting tissue. If there are any misalignments or fractures, you will have a better idea of what you will be dealing with in the way of treatments.

Using MRI to Diagnose Back Pain – This is the magnetic tube which allows the doctor and technicians to see the soft tissue. If there is a herniated disc or a degenerative disc problem, the doctor will know.

Myelograms Take a Deeper Look at Back Pain – This involves the nerves. When a disc is herniated, nerves can become pinched. By injecting dye into the spinal cord, doctors can see if and where nerve damage is occurring.

Self-diagnosing back pain is a risky business. A backache now and again when you’ve been out mowing the lawn or painting the house is understandable. However, intense or long-term back pain is nothing to play around with. It could be a sign that something is wrong with either the structure of your back or your general health. A visit with your doctor will either reassure you that rest and exercise will help your back or you’ll find proper treatment to resolve a health issue. Seeing your doctor is the only way to put your mind at ease and get on with your day — without that old pain in the back!

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