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.

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.

SLEEP SUNDAY – LET’S TALK ABOUT SLEEP AND DUVETS…

It’s Sleep Sunday – Let’s Talk About Sleep and this week I am writing about Duvet’s.

Duvet’s, love them or hate them we all sleep with them now. I still use a sheet under my duvet but that’s just so it makes it easier for me to change the bed. It means I change my sheet every week but only change the duvet once a month as the sheet is against our skin. Being small ( in height 😀) it’s quite an effort for me to change a king size duvet and my back certainly doesn’t like it so that’s when I decided to use a sheet under the duvet.

I don’t know about you but I absolutely LOVE getting into a clean and fresh bed. But then I do love my bed. My bedroom is my sanctuary somewhere I love going to for my afternoon rest. When we moved down south this year I spent time planning how my room would look and feel and I could not be happier with the finished room.

Beth Urmston from Fibro Flare Support Group a registered charity sent me a link to an article in Country Life Magazine on How to Sleep Like A Lamb : The Benefit of a Pure Wool Duvet. They say that you can get a perfect night’s sleep with a pure wool duvet made of old fashioned sheep’s wool. ‘It creates the perfect climate for each person,’ explains Bridgett Kelly, interior textiles director of the Campaign for Wool. ‘a duvet containing synthetic fibres doesn’t adjust to the individual, but wool gives you improved quality of deep sleep, which leaves t‘he body rejuvenated.’ said Julie Harding from Country Life Magazine.

Wool in bedding isn’t a new concept, but the arrival of the Continental quilt in the 1970s meant that heavy, itchy, difficult-to-wash blankets were consigned to the airing cupboard. in 2009, Channel 4’s My Dream Farm, presented by Monty Don, showcased Dick and Pauline Beijen’s early attempts to add value to their sheep’s wool by using it as a duvet filling and this helped bring about the resurgence of wool as a bedding material.


Countrys Life writes that sales have grown by 800% in the past three years, making The Wool Room the market leader. The company’s researchers took 12 years to develop a wool filling that can be washed in a machine and it invited allergy UK to devise a test for allergens. ‘after six weeks, there were no dust mites, no bacteria and no fungus in our duvets,’ confirms Mr Tattersall, who promotes his products as suitable for asthma, eczema and allergic-rhinitis sufferers, although he cautions against buying inexpensive imports. ‘The cheaper wool duvets use synthetic liners, which will defeat the object, plus you don’t know where the wool comes from. The UK has the best wool in the world. We tend to buy from the eastern seaboard. Provenance is important to us.’

There choice of where to buy your wool duvet from is –

  • Southdown Duvets, Scotland Farm, Upland Lane, Hawkley, Hampshire (01730 827148; www.southdownduvets.com)
  • Devon Duvets, 9, Bluewater Estate, Bell Close, Plympton, Devon (01752 345399; www.devonduvets.com)
  • The Wool Room (01780 461217; www.thewoolroom.com)
  • Baavet Baavet Cyf, Unit 12, Tan y Castell, Harlech, Gwynedd (01766 780780; www.baavet.co.uk)
  • Personally, I have never slept under a wool duvet and would love to hear from any bloggers that have one and their verdict on if it gives you a better night’s sleep. It’s certainly not something I would have thought of buying as I would immediately think I would be too hot in one. It’s certainly something worth thinking about.