Back pain is not actually a diagnosis, but rather is the symptom that something else is going on. There are a number of different medical problems capable of causing back pain as a symptom including infections, tumors, acquired conditions or diseases such as scoliosis, spondylolisthesis, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, kidney stones, kidney infections, pregnancy and endometriosis, injuries to the area and mechanical problems involving the spine. Anyone is capable of developing back pain, but some people experience an increase in risk. The most common risk factors involved in back pain includes fitness level, age, diet, race and heredity. Other diseases in the body, cigarette smoking and occupational risk factors can all also play a role in when and if back pain is developed. Some complications of back pain include permanent disability, weakness or even paralysis in leg muscles or undetectable cancer.
It is important to pay attention to the type of back pain that is experienced so information can be relayed to the physician. Diagnosing the cause for the back pain is going to require taking a physical exam and a medical history. Some medical tests such as x-rays may be required. The physician will also generally ask medical history questions as well as questions about the type of back pain, what may have caused the back pain, when the pain feels better or worse, whether or not any conditions exist such as arthritis, and if back pain has been experienced before in the past.
A physical examination may include standing and walking, checking reflexes, checking for tender points or the presence of fibromyalgic pain, checking muscle sensation and muscle strength, looking for nerve root irritation signs and other types of examination that may lend clues to the type of back pain being experienced. Blood tests, X-rays, CT scans, MRIs and other tests may be performed to determine the root cause or the extent of the back pain.
In most cases, treatment will involve consultation from a physician. Chronic back pain and acute back pain have their own distinct treatment requirements. Acute back pain can typically go away on its own with little to no treatment, but chronic back pain typically requires treatment, either surgical or otherwise. Nonsurgical treatment options for chronic back pain can include heat and cold packs, exercise, flexion, stretching, extension, aerobic exercise, medications, NSAIDs and analgesic medications, traction, braces and corsets, injections, nerve root blocks and trigger point injections. There are many alternative and complementary treatments that may be used in conjunction with medical treatments.
A physician should be consulted in situations where the back pain does not resolve itself in a few days with rest and heat or ice. Getting to the root cause of the problem is absolutely essential in preventing further back pain or a worsening of the current cause of the back pain. While some forms of treatment can be handled at home, working with a physician is often necessary to completely eradicate the back pain.