DIFFERENT TYPES OF TESTS FOR BACK PAIN PROBLEMS…

The first thing that most doctors will do when you see them about a persistent case of back pain will be to ask you a series of questions. They’ll want to know when the pain started and for how long you’ve been having it. You may be asked if your family has a history of back pain.

All these questions serve a purpose. The doctor is trying to ascertain if you have chronic pain, acute pain or if there’s some other underlying cause. In most cases, back pain tends to diminish and disappear after about a month or six weeks.

However, if the pain persists, there are a few diagnostic tests that your doctor may resort to. These tests have several purposes. They’ll be able to detect if the back pain is due to a tumor, cancer or some other problem.

If the patient has lost bladder control, it could be a serious problem where the spinal cord is under pressure. These tests will be able to detect why the problem is occurring. There are many possible causes from spinal infections to osteoporosis. These are best detected using advanced diagnostic tests.

X-ray

Of course, this is the most popular and common one that doctors resort to in the first stage. The high frequency radiation, will detect bone problems, tumors, infections, etc. It’s a painless process and this test will reveal several issues that aren’t outwardly visible.

Computed tomography scan

Also known as the ‘CT scan’, this diagnostic test is similar to an X-ray and often done together with a myelogram. A CT scan can detect nerve issues in the back, affected discs, spinal stenosis and much more.

Unlike an X-ray which can be done standing up, a CT scan will require you to lie on a table while your body is scanned.

Magnetic resonance imaging scan (MRI)

Like the CT scan, you’ll need to lie down while the scan is being done. Unlike an X-ray machine, MRI scans use radio and magnetic waves to produce the images that you see on the screen. These scans can detect dehydrated discs, facet joint issues and many other possible causes of back pain.

In many cases, the point of pain may not necessarily be where the pain originates. For example, shooting pains down your leg is an indicator of sciatica. The issue is not with your leg, but your lower back.

Bone scans

This is the type of scan you’d expect to see in a movie. It is very useful for detecting the specific part of the spine where the problem is occurring. The test is done by injecting the patient with a chemical that goes directly into their bloodstream.

The chemical will adhere to parts of the bone that are affected. A special camera is then used to detect the chemical in the body. The parts of the bone that are darker are the parts that are affected. This is an excellent way to detect bone density problems, tumors, infections, etc.

Blood tests

These can help determine whether you have an infection or other condition that might be causing your pain like inflammatory arthritis.

Nerve conduction tests

Electromyography (EMG) measures the electrical impulses produced by the nerves and the responses of your muscles. This test can confirm nerve compression caused by herniated disks or narrowing of your spinal canal (spinal stenosis).

I have personally had all of the above except the bone scans and I have found in the past that the MRI and nerve conduction tests have shown up my problems the best but everyone is different. The 4 scans above are the most commonly used ones. You can also find out lots more on the NHS website.

Your doctor will be the best person to advise you on the different tests and which ones will yield the best results when used to diagnose your condition.

A CHAT WITH NICHOLA ADAMS ON BACK PAIN AND POSTURE…

Nichola Adams is one of “Britain’s most experienced and highly qualified consultants in back pain”.

Nichola provides professional support and advice to companies and individuals nationwide on how they can introduce measures and improvements to reduce the risk of back pain in the workplace.

Nichola and I had a lovely chat yesterday about back pain and how important it is that our laptop/computer screens and work stations are at the correct height as this is one of the biggest causes of back and neck pain in the workplace.

 

Nichola is an “Ergonomist” specialist. “Ergonomics” derives from the Greek words ‘ergot’ meaning ‘work’ and ‘nomoi’ meaning ‘natural laws’, and is the science of making products and tasks comfortable and efficient for human use.

Nichola regularly consults in ergonomic seating design, works with rehabilitation companies, and has designed her own range of orthopaedic chairs, so she knows exactly what to recommend for each particular person’s experience.

After experiencing her own back problems with sciatica and a coccyx injury, Nichola had a change in career and took a Masters degree in Health Ergonomics.

We chatted about how much emotions can influence the amount of pain we are in. Simply being aware that you are feeling angry and frustrated about something can influence your pain.

Nichola told me: “I spend a lot of time going into companies around the UK to advise them and help support and educate their employees about the importance of looking after their posture so they can reduce back pain in the long term. 

 

“In my 12 years of experience supporting businesses, unfortunately I find it’s so often the case that people go to see a physiotherapist or an osteopath and then undo all the good work and treatment as soon as they sit back down and slump at their desk again. Simple changes to your workstation set-up can also have a powerful impact.

“It has long been understood that stress plays a big role in the amount of back pain a person might experience. The reverse is also true in that back pain can cause you stress. It’s important to recognise this in order to break the viscous cycle. 

“Simple things such as deep breathing, recognising the impact of stress on your body and taking time out for yourself can all make a big difference.”

Nichola recommends a book all about this called ‘Healing Back Pain.The Mind-Body Connection’ by John Sarno. Dr. Sarno reveals how stress and other psychological facts can cause back pain and how you can be pain free without drugs, exercise or surgery! Something I know my readers would love to hear.

 Dr. Sarno’s program has helped thousands of people find relief from chronic back conditions without drugs, physical therapy, or dangerous surgery. His book is available from Amazon.

 

It was lovely to chat to Nichola who is putting together another post for my readers with infographics and details on the correct posture while working (or playing) on your laptop or computer. It is actually law that companies should look after their employees in their workspace which means your workstation should be the right height etc.

 * Nichola Adams, the Founder of Inspired Ergonomics (inspiredergonomics.com), is one of the UK’s leading back-pain experts, advising companies on how to minimise the risk of back pain in the workplace.

“Pictures: Giles Barnard”

SLEEP SUNDAY LET’S TALK ABOUT SLEEP USING MASSAGE…

SLEEPLESSNESS/INSOMNIA

Massage with your thumbs the dips below and slightly in front of the inner ankle while using your index fingers to massage the same spot on the outer ankle bone for a minute or so, this should calm you down.

The Spirit Gate – 1 Feel for the small, hollow space in this area and apply gentle pressure in a circular or up-and-down movement.

2 Continue for two to three minutes.

3 Hold the left side of the point with gentle pressure for a few seconds, and then hold the right side.

4 Repeat on the same area of your other wrist.

Stimulating this pressure point is associated with quieting your mind, which can help you fall asleep.

Massage your neck – In the sitting position, using the fingers of both hands, massage the back of your neck along the line of your skull, starting from the middle out towards the back of your ears. Breath with every stroke and feel the tension released. Do this with purpose, focusing on each breath.

ANXIETY

With your thumb or right index and middle fingers, firmly press the outer side of each forearm at the place where your hand and wrist join, below your little finger. Press firmly on your left wrist and hold it for about one minute, then change hands and repeat. 

FATIGUE

Using your thumbs or index finger steadily press onto the outer sides of the calves about one finger width from the shin and about four finger widths below the knee. Press these points for a minute or so, beginning gently and gradually harder and repeat as needed.

 

IMPROVE MEMORY

Press your index and middle fingers to the points located on both temples and hold for a minute or so to facilitate recall. Activate on a daily basis to improve memory and increase mental clarity in general.

IMPROVE CONCENTRATION

Press your index finger to the point located in the indention between the upper lip and the base of the nose and hold for at least a minute.

DIFFERENT TYPES OF BACK PAIN…

The most common type of back pain that people suffer from is often acute back pain. This is pain that’s severe and happens out of nowhere, or at least it seems that way. In reality, there’s often a trigger that caused the pain, and you’ll be able to remedy the problem once you figure out what it is.

Chronic back pain, however, is recurrent and can last for weeks or months, and sometimes even longer. It’s usually related to diseases such as osteoporosis, degenerative disc disease, etc.

The severity of your back pain usually dictates whether you’ll see a doctor or not. Most people with mild back pain, tend to just wait things out and rest. While this is understandable, if the pain is nagging and doesn’t go away, you must see a doctor as soon as possible so that any possible problems can be treated in the early stages.

 

Sudden onset back pain

If you have sudden onset back pain, this could be due to an injury or a fall, or a strain. In some cases, the pain may only show up a day after the event, so you may have forgotten about it.

For example, if you strained your back while moving the couch, your lower back may start to throb or hurt a day later. By then you may have forgotten about the couch and be wondering why your back hurts. So, you’ll need to think back.

This is just one example. Working out at the gym, braking suddenly while driving, or even bumps to the back can cause back pain. In these cases, some pain killers and rest will suffice.

Usually, lifting heavy objects or twisting your trunk may cause sudden onset back pain. The facet joints get temporarily out of alignment and this will cause the joint to get inflamed. The surrounding soft tissues and muscles will get swollen and hurt. You may need to see a doctor.

 

Gradual onset back pain

Another type of back pain is one that starts gradually. Sciatica is one such issue. If you have pain that’s located between your lower back and glutes, you might be suffering from ankylosing spondylitis. Pregnant women whose backs are strained will also display similar symptoms.

Another serious gradual onset back pain arises when there is inflammation in the sacroiliac joints. In cases like these, you must see a doctor. Numbness around your back and buttocks, loss of bladder control, pain during bowel movements, etc. are all signs of back issues that require professional medical attention.

 

Chronic back pain

With these types of back pain, it may seem like there’s no cause. The pain may come and go away. It’s episodic, recurrent and not as severe as acute back pain.

Usually chronic back pain arises due to poor posture that takes a toll on the joints and muscles over time. Correcting your posture will remedy the problem. It could also be due to aging, where your joints suffer wear and tear.

If the pain is persistent or worsens, there may be inflammation. It’ll be best to see a doctor.

These are the 3 types of back pain that generally affect most people. What you really need to know is that when assessing your pain, you must be honest with yourself. If the pain is getting worse, do not bury your head in the sand and expect it to go away. Immediately visit a doctor and get it checked out. A stitch in time saves nine.