Two out of three adults deal with back pain at some point in their lives.1 Nine out of 10 of these patients have acute back pain, or back pain that stops after a few days or weeks. When you have back pain, you may wonder when you need to see a doctor for it. Certain signs and symptoms indicate that you need to see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment. Others show that you need immediate medical attention. Learn how to identify these signs to get the care you need.
When to Schedule an Appointment
Most patients who experience back pain have a mechanical cause — a situation or condition causes an injury. If you think your back pain comes from muscle strain, you can start with rest and over-the-counter painkillers. If the pain does not improve after trying at-home care, you may have a condition and need a doctor’s help.2 Consult a physician if you experience back pain that doesn’t get better on its own.
Questions Your Doctor Will Ask During Your Visit
During a doctor’s appointment for back pain, your physician will try to determine its cause. To figure out what approach to take, they will ask questions like3:
- Did you have an accident or injury to your back? What did you do before the pain started?
- Do you have pain on one or both sides of your back?
- What does the pain feel like? Does it feel like tingling, burning or an ache?
- Do certain activities make the pain feel worse?
- What other symptoms do you have, if any?
- How long do your back pain episodes last?
- Do you feel any numbness, tingling or loss of leg function?
These questions will help your doctor decide what steps to follow next in the diagnosis and treatment process.
Signs of a Back Pain Emergency
The following symptoms could indicate a severe back condition that needs immediate medical care:
- Difficulty with urination
- Loss of feeling in the legs
If any of the symptoms that happen alongside your back pain seem unusual, a doctor can help you determine whether you need special care.
Potential Treatments for Back Pain
Many cases of back pain can receive non-surgical treatment.4 The majority of patients can find relief through diet, exercise, physical therapy and other conservative methods. These approaches include:
- Rest for the affected area
- Over-the-counter or prescription medications
- Physical medicine such as physical therapy, chiropractic therapy or a brace
- At-home exercises
- Appropriate lifting techniques
In more serious situations, back pain may require surgical treatment such as:
- Spinal fusion
- Disk replacement
Medical professionals try to opt for non-surgical treatments before recommending surgery. If a patient’s back pain does not improve after 4 weeks, a doctor may recommend imaging and possibly surgical treatment.
Schedule an Appointment for Back Pain at Regional Orthopedics
Patients in New York who experience acute back pain can get diagnosis and treatment at one of Regional Orthopedics’ offices. Our doctors can determine the cause of your symptoms and recommend the right course of action. To schedule an appointment, contact our staff online.
1. Fields TR. An In-Depth Overview of Low Back Pain. Hospital for Special Surgery. https://www.hss.edu/conditions_in-depth-overview-low-back-pain.asp. Published September 29, 2016. Accessed July 17, 2019.
2. Casper D. Opinion – How Worried Should I Be About My Low Back Pain? – AAOS. OrthoInfo. https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases–conditions/ortho-pinion-how-worried-should-i-be-about-my-low-back-pain/. Published April 2019. Accessed July 17, 2019.
3. Ma CB. Back pain – when you see the doctor: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007494.htm. Published September 7, 2017. Accessed July 17, 2019.
4. Low Back Pain – OrthoInfo – AAOS. OrthoInfo. https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases–conditions/low-back-pain/. Published December 2013. Accessed July 17, 2019.