Struggling with back pain? How to ease your discomfort and when to see a doctor.

August 26, 2021

Primary Care Brain and Spine Physical Therapy
Shot of a businesswoman suffering from back pain

Do you have a dull, steady ache in your lower back? Or did you suddenly feel a sharp pain shoot through your back? You’re not alone. Back pain is one of the most common health problems people face. 

Everyone, even children, can suffer from back pain,” says Shraddha R. Patel, M.D., an internal medicine physician with Riverside Internal Medicine of Denbigh. “In fact, it’s one of the most common reasons people go to their doctor.  But the good news is that your pain will usually go away on its own.”

Dr. Patel explains what causes back pain, how to prevent it and when to see a doctor. 

What causes back pain?

“We divide back pain into two types,” says Dr. Patel. “One is acute, for pain that only lasts a few days or weeks without recurring. This is the most common type of back pain. If your pain continues for at least twelve weeks, it’s considered chronic pain.”

If you were in a car accident or fell down a flight of stairs, it’s easy to know the reason for your pain. In these cases, you likely stretched or tore a ligament, tendon or muscle. Some less obvious causes for back pain include:

  • Slouching in a chair
  • Being out of shape
  • An intense workout
  • Obesity
  • Genetics
  • Getting older
Arthritis and other medical problems that cause bones to deteriorate can also result in back pain. Additionally, nerve and spinal cord problems – like a herniated or ruptured disc, an infection or sciatica – might be the source of your back pain.

Some medical conditions unrelated to your spine can also cause back pain. These include:

  • Kidney stones 
  • Endometriosis 
  • Fibromyalgia 
  • Tumors 
  • Pregnancy 

How to ease your back pain

Most back pain goes away on its own, but it may take some time. If your back pain just started, here are some ways to relieve, and possibly heal, your pain:

  • Place cold packs on the painful area 
  • Use hot packs or a heating pad 
  • Take over-the-counter pain medication as needed
  • Temporarily stop any activities or exercise that could make your pain worse, but don’t rest all day
  • Resume normal activities as soon as you can – moving can help decrease your pain
  • Make sure to get enough sleep and eat healthy foods

How to prevent back pain 

Regular exercise that keeps your muscles strong and flexible can protect your back from injury. Maintaining a healthy weight will prevent unnecessary stress or strain on your back.  A diet that includes foods with calcium and Vitamin D helps keep your bones healthy. 

“Think about your daily routine and consider ways you might unknowingly aggravate your back,” Dr. Patel recommends. “If you sit at work all day, switch positions from time to time and take breaks to stretch and walk around the office. You can also place a pillow or rolled-up towel behind the small of the back for extra support and use a small stool to support your feet. And, of course, practice good posture to relieve the stress on your spine.”

When to see a doctor

If your pain does not get better on its own, make an appointment with your primary care provider. They can prescribe medication, physical therapy or determine if you should see a specialist. Additionally, don’t wait several weeks to make an appointment if you have back pain along with:

  • Fever
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Unexpected weight loss
  • Weak, painful or numb legs

If you were in an accident or experienced a serious injury, you should also seek medical attention. To make an appointment with Dr. Patel for your back pain, visit our website.

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