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.

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.

3 GREAT TIPS ON HOW TO PROTECT YOUR LOW BACK…

Prevention is always better than cure. Even if you have no back pain, it’s always best to take measures to keep it at bay. Back pain, when serious, can be debilitating and make your life a living hell. While certain types of chronic back pain are unavoidable due to genetics or diseases, the acute type of back pain that most people suffer from can be nipped in the bud with the right habits.

It doesn’t matter if your back pain is chronic or acute. The tips below will help you to alleviate the pain and bring relief. In the early or intermediate stages, you may even be able to reverse the problem.

Most people suffer issues in the lower back, and the tips below will be extremely effective for treating lower back problems. It’s important to understand that if your back pain is caused by injury to the cartilage or bone, you’ll require rest. The injured area needs time to heal.

However, during the resting process, your muscles surrounding the joint may weaken due to lack of use. This can lead to persistent back pain too. So, it’s a catch-22 situation. You need to rest, but you also need to strengthen your back muscles. That’s why physiotherapy is very important for back injuries.

Now let’s look at the tips.

1. Strengthen your abs and back

A person with a strong back and abdomen will be much less likely to experience back pain than someone with a weak back. Exercises such as deadlifts, flutter kicks, hanging leg raises, planks, etc. will strengthen your core and your back. Once both of these parts are strong, your back will not be prone to back pain.

2. Proper footwear

Women should avoid wearing high heels for long periods. While they may look good, this comes at a heavy price. The spine experiences abnormal stress when the heels increase the lower spine’s curvature.

You should also note that your footwear should be appropriate for your job. If you walk or stand a lot during your job (e.g. nurse, waitress, etc.) you should wear proper shoes that provide adequate support.

If you have flat feet or a high arch, it’s even more important to get shoes that support your feet well. When there is pronation in the foot, the lower spine and hips are affected. You may wish to use orthotics to help balance out your feet. People with flat feet or high aches may also experience plantar fasciitis, which is another painful condition. So, once again, being prepared will keep pain away.

3.  Focus on your posture

Poor posture is a hard habit to break. You need to be constantly aware of your posture. When standing, keep your back straight with your shoulders pulled back. Slouching can not only cause back pain but also neck pain.

Stand with your back against a wall. Lean your head back and pull your shoulders back a little. You’ll understand what good posture should feel like.

The same applies when you’re seated. Too many people spend hours sitting hunched over a computer typing away. Always check and make sure that you’re sitting upright. Pull your chair close to your desk, and this will help to keep you straight and upright.

Keep these 3 tips in mind daily. Exercise regularly, use proper footwear and maintain good posture. These are the cornerstones to preventing and relieving back pain.

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DRUGS -V- BACK PAIN…

One of the best ways to treat back pain is with medication. While holistic methods like correcting your posture, yoga, acupuncture, etc. are all relatively effective in the long run… but when it comes to immediate pain relief, nothing beats the effectiveness of oral medication.

There are several different types of drugs use to treat back pain. Some can be purchased over-the-counter while others will need to be prescribed by a doctor. Generally, the more potent drugs will require a doctor’s prescription.

The symptoms and severity of your condition will dictate what drugs are prescribed to you.

 Painkillers

Most of the time, you can get painkillers over-the-counter. Panadol also known as acetaminophen or Tylenol is the most common type of painkiller. It’s used by people to treat everything from headaches to back pain to fevers.

There are also pain relief creams that are used to treat muscular aches and back pain. Usually these creams contain menthol/methylsalicylate which gives the ‘cool’ feeling when applied. Some creams may contain capsaicin too.

The creams while effective, take time to work. The most immediate relief is that your pain signals get altered when your skin is feeling hot and cool at the same time because of the creams.

Aspirin is another painkiller that can be used to treat back pain, but you should avoid taking NSAIDs if you’re already taking aspirin.

 

NSAIDs

NSAIDs are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that block the body’s production of chemicals which are produced when there’s a strain or injury, and causes pain. Do not take these if you’re pregnant.

Common anti-inflammatory drugs are naproxen, ibuprofen, diclofenac, etc. These relieve back pain that arises from arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, musculoskeletal issues, etc.

Whenever there’s back pain, there’s a high chance that the joints and soft tissues surrounding the affected area are inflamed. By using anti-inflammation medication, you’ll be able to soothe these areas and reduce the pain.

 Muscle relaxants

Tight muscles in your back can cause back pain too. Usually poor posture over prolonged periods can strain your muscles and cause them to get tight. Your doctor may prescribe muscle relaxants to help your body relax and ease the pain.

Different types of muscle relaxants have different degrees of efficacy. Your doctor will prescribe you one that is most suitable for your pain. These muscle relaxants may make you drowsy, and stronger types like valium can actually be a depressant and should be avoided by people with depression.

Commonly prescribed muscle relaxants are Valium, Flexeril, Metaxolone, Carisoprodol, Cyclobenzaprine, etc.

 Drugs to improve bone density

These are best used to treat patients with back pain related to osteoporosis or weak bones. While calcium supplements are effective, your doctor may prescribe tamoxifen or raloxifene. These drugs will improve your bone density and reduce your risk of vertebral fractures due to weak bones.

When combined with drugs such as calcitonin and risedronate, the absorption of the bone is improved, and bone density increases.

These are just some of the drugs used to combat back pain. You should speak to your doctor or do your own research online so that you’re well-informed on the topic. Always consult your doctor before taking any medication.

You need to know if you’re allergic or if the medication you take will ‘clash’ with other medications you’re taking. Not all medications play well with each other. So, to stay away from complications and ill-effects, it’s best to approach all medication with caution.

MY TOP TIPS TO AVOID HURTING YOUR BACK OVER CHRISTMAS…

It’s easy at this time of year to forget the correct way to pick something up or the correct way to sit to avoid stirring up your back problem, so I’ve put some tips together to remind you.

If your using public transport don’t forger your badge or stick as you should be offered a seat.

When brushing your teeth rinse with a cup of water, don’t bend, it’s a classic position to trigger low back pain.

If you have to have a bath as you have no shower, either bend your knees to the floor then fill up your bath or get someone else to fill the bath for you. I have pulled my back out twice while filling a bath. When you do have a shower remember to have your toiletries at the correct height so that you are not stretching or bending.

Always, always, always bend the knees when picking up anything or bending down. Use your legs when lifting. Bend at the knees and straighten your legs as you lift the object. This puts less strain on your back.

And for the women, don’t carry your life around in your handbag.

And for the men, don’t carry too much in your computer bag.

Another one for the women, don’t wear high heels all the time. The long term effect can not only effect your back but also your feet.

Standing incorrectly I suppose is an obvious one but they say that if you can avoid leaning while standing (against a wall or similar) and do not stand on one leg as this can create muscle imbalances.

If you stand for long periods of time, raise one foot on a box to lessen the strain on your back. Check your posture and try to maintain the natural curve in your spine. Take frequent breaks if possible.

If you must sit for long periods of time, get up every 30 minutes, walk around and do a few stretches.

If you work at a computer, adjust your chair so your elbows to wrists are parallel to the floor and the screen is at eye level.

If your going to stay with family over Christmas do pay attention to how you get in and out of the car. Sit down facing the door and swing both legs into the car together. Getting out is the reverse. It may look cumbersome but many a bad back is triggered by getting in or out of the car the wrong way. Ensure if you are driving any distance that you take regular breaks and have a walk around, and pop a cushion or towel behind your back.