Back Pain

Joint Pain

Back Pain

Back pain is very common and usually improves within a few weeks or months. Pain in the lower back (lumbago) is especially common. Back pain can be a symptom of several different types of medical problems, such as: ligaments, nerves, muscles and vertebrae (the bony structures that make up the spine). You can also experience back pain due to a problem with nearby organs, such as the kidneys. In addition to the lower back, back pain can also be felt anywhere along the spine (from the neck down to the hips). In most cases, the pain isn’t caused by anything serious and can usually get better over time. However, the pain can last a long time or keep coming back and if you are experiencing either long-lasting, severe or recurring back pain, contact one of our experts at Ahmeys to discuss your symptoms.

Symptoms

Symptoms and signs of back pain can include:

  • Muscle aches
  • Stabbing or shooting pain
  • Pain anywhere from the top of the neck down to the hips that can develop either suddenly or gradually
  • Pain that radiates down your leg
  • Pain that becomes worse with lifting, bending, standing or walking
  • Pain that tends to get better or worse depending on your position (for example, it may feel better when sitting or lying down)
  • Pain that is typically more severe when moving (but it is not a good idea to avoid moving your back completely, as this can make the pain and stiffness worse)

When to see an expert at Ahmeys

If you are experiencing the symptoms above, your symptoms are getting worse, have not gone away within a few weeks or months, have not gone away with home treatment and self-care or have begun to affect your mobility and day to day life, we recommend that you call Ahmeys to book an appointment. One of our experts can check your symptoms and conduct tests to confirm a diagnosis and rule out any other problems.

Call to make an urgent appointment with Ahmeys if:

  • Your back pain is severe and doesn’t improve with rest.
  • Spreads down one or both legs, especially if the pain extends below the knees.
  • You are experiencing weakness, numbness or tingling in one or both legs.
  • Your back pain is accompanied by unexplained weight loss.

When to seek emergency care

In rare circumstances, back pain symptoms can indicate a more severe medical problem. Seek immediate care if:

  • Your back pain is causing new bladder or bowel problems
  • Your back pain is accompanied by fever
  • Your back pain is a result of a fall, injury, or blow to your back
  • Your back is badly bruised, misshapen or bleeding
  • You are not able to move your back
  • You are not able to feel your back
  • You have a weakness or numbness in both legs that is severe or getting worse
  • You have numbness under or around your genitals or anus

When to seek emergency care

In rare circumstances, back pain symptoms can indicate a more severe medical problem. Seek immediate care if:

  • Your back pain is causing new bladder or bowel problems
  • Your back pain is accompanied by fever
  • Your back pain is a result of a fall, injury, or blow to your back
  • Your back is badly bruised, misshapen or bleeding
  • You are not able to move your back
  • You are not able to feel your back
  • You have a weakness or numbness in both legs that is severe or getting worse
  • You have numbness under or around your genitals or anus

Causes

Back pain can often develop without a cause. However, it can be commonly linked to: muscle or ligament strain, bulging or ruptured disks, arthritis, skeletal irregularities or osteoporosis.

‘Non-specific’ or ‘Mechanical’

It is not always possible to identify the cause of back pain, but it is rarely ever serious. Most back pain is known as ‘non-specific’ (no obvious cause) or ‘mechanical’ (the pain originates from the joints, bones or soft tissues in and around the spine). These types of back pain can typically be caused by:

  • Poor posture
  • Lifting something awkwardly
  • A minor injury (sprain due to either a pulled ligament or pulled muscle)
  • Remaining in one position for too long (for example oversleeping and lying in an awkward position for hours)
  • Overexerting your muscles during strenuous physical activity
  • This type of back pain can also be associated with feeling stressed or run down

Medical Conditions

Sometimes back pain symptoms can be caused by an underlying medical problem. Back pain caused by the symptoms below is typically treated differently to non-specific back pain. Conditions that can cause back pain include:

  • A slipped (prolapsed) disc: a disc of cartilage in the spine pressing on the nerve which causes pain, numbness, tingling and weakness in other parts of the body
  • Ankylosing spondylitis: swelling of the joints in the spine which causes stiffness and pain that is usually worse in the morning and improves with movement
  • Sciatica: irritation of the nerve that runs from the lower back to the feet that causes numbness, pain, tingling and weakness in the lower back, buttocks, legs and feet
  • Spondylolisthesis: a bone slipping out of position that can cause lower back pain and stiffness, in addition to numbness and a tingling sensation
  • Arthritis: a common condition that causes inflammation and pain in a joint or multiple joints
  • Osteoporosis: a condition that weakens bones, making them fragile and more likely to break

Severe Medical Problems

In rare cases, back pain can be an indicator of a serious problem, such as:

  • A broken bone in the spine
  • An infection
  • Inflammation or irritation of an internal organ
  • Pain in the lower right back can indicate kidney problems or kidney infections
  • Cauda equina syndrome (where the nerves in the lower back become severely compressed)
  • Types of cancer

Diagnosis

If you are concerned about your back pain symptoms, call Ahmeys to book an appointment with one of our experts to discuss your symptoms and potential treatments. An expert at Ahmeys will review your symptoms and potentially perform the following diagnosistic tests:

  • Physical examination of your back and assessment of your ability to stand, sit, walk and lift your legs
  • One of our experts may also ask you to rate your pain on a scale of zero to ten and talk to you about how well you are functioning with your pain
  • Assessments to determine where the pain comes from, how much you can move, your range of motion before the pain stops you and whether you have muscle spasms

If an Ahmeys expert has reason to suspect that a specific condition might be causing your back pain, they might conduct or order one or more further tests including: X-ray, MRI or CT scans, blood tests, Bone Scans or Nerve studies (using electrical impulses)

Treatment

Most back pain gets better with rest and a few weeks of home treatment. Depending on the type of back pain you have been diagnosed with, one of our experts at Ahmeys may recommend the following:

Medication

  • Over the counter (OTC) pain relievers: nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, to help control pain and reduce inflammation
  • Menthol or capsaicin creams: to apply topically to the affected area and block the pain signals from your joints
  • Immunosuppressants: like prednisone or cortisone to help reduce inflammation
  • Opioids: can be used to relieve severe pain
  • Muscle relaxants: low doses of certain types of antidepressants, particularly tricyclic antidepressants, such as amitriptyline. These medications have been shown to relieve some types of chronic back pain
  • Steroid injections: Steroids containing manmade versions of the hormone cortisol can be used to treat painful back problems. Injections of cortisone (an anti-inflammatory medication) can be made directly into the affected area (usually after a local anesthetic is used to numb the area and reduce pain), to help decrease inflammation around the nerve roots

Surgery

Very few people require surgery for back pain. However, if you have unrelenting pain associated with radiating leg pain and progressive muscle weakness that has been diagnosed as a result of nerve compression, you might benefit from surgery. Typically, surgery is reserved for pain related to structural problems, such as a herniated disk, or narrowing of the spine that hasn’t responded to surgery.

Supportive and alternative therapies

  • Physiotherapy Therapy
  • Physiotherapy helps to restore movement and function, can help you to increase your flexibility, strengthen your back and abdominal muscles and improve your posture. Regular physiotherapy can release stiff muscles and soft tissues to reduce pain and use of these techniques can help to prevent pain from coming back
  • Acupuncture: is a treatment derived from ancient Chinese medicine in which fine needles are inserted into certain sites in the body for preventative and therapeutic purposes
  • Chiropractic: is a treatment where a practitioner (Chiropractor) uses their hands to help relieve problems with the muscles, bones and joints
  • Massage: physical manipulation, stretching and massaging the muscles and joints to prevent and relieve health problems and pain  
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS): TENS is a machine that sends electrical impulses through electrodes (sticky patches) attached to the skin. This can help to ease pain by numbing the nerve endings of your spinal cord
  • Yoga: Yoga can stretch and strengthen muscles, improve posture and can be modified to avoid aggravating your symptoms

How to manage your symptoms

  • Apply hot or cold packs to joints to relieve pain
  • Use stretching techniques provided by one of our experts at Ahmeys or a physiotherapist
  • Take painkillers to reduce pain, but make sure that you follow the recommended dose and that the medication does not conflict with any other medication you are currently taking
  • Exercise regularly to keep joints flexible, but avoid overexerting yourself or putting too much pressure on your joints. Swimming is a good non-weight bearing activity
  • Look after your back and try to avoid further damage
  • Relax and try to eliminate stress, as muscle tension and stress can exacerbate your back pain symptoms

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