Back Pain

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Overview

Back pain is one of the most common symptoms that patients can complain of to a physician. It is one of those conditions against which we have a number of methods for relief. It can, however, turn out to have a grave etiology in a minority of cases.

Causes

In many cases, back pain can arise due to an age factor, lack of exercise or sudden intense exercise, excess weight, or psychological problems. Some other common causes of back pain are:

  • Muscle or ligament injury/strain
  • Poor physical condition
  • Intervertebral disc rupture or prolapse (bulge)
  • Arthritis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Malignancy, especially spread from a cancer elsewhere

Symptoms

Some common symptoms of back pain may include:

  • Muscle spasm/pain
  • Shooting or stabbing pain
  • Pain that radiates down the leg or buttocks
  • Limited movement or flexibility

Certain symptoms, referred to as red flags also exist along with back pain that need to be checked up by a doctor immediately:

  • Bowel, or bladder problems
  • Pain accompanied with fever
  • After a severe injury or trauma
  • No improve on continued or rest, or increasing intensity
  • Weakness or loss of sensation in legs

Diagnosis

After clinical assessment of the back, some tests can be used to pinpoint a cause:

  • X-Ray
  • CT/MRI
  • Blood tests
  • Bone scan
  • Nerve conduction studies (electromyography)

Treatment

If simple interventions such as ice packs/heat, therapeutic exercises, over the counter pain relievers and ointments don’t relieve the pain in a couple of days, physical therapy and certain medications can be prescribed:

  • Muscle relaxants
  • NSAIDs
  • Narcotic pain medication
  • Injections of analgesic agents
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