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Back Pain Archive
When do I need an imaging test for my back pain?
Q. I suddenly developed low back pain for the first time. My doctor said I did not need an x-ray or other imaging test. Is that normal and are there any situations when a test would be needed?
A. Yes, your doctor is following the current guidelines. Unless you have other symptoms in addition to low back pain, an x-ray, CT scan, or MRI is not likely to be helpful. But it could cause unnecessary worry while waiting for the results and cost you some money if it's not covered by your health insurance. In addition, many people have "false-positive" results in which an abnormality is detected but turns out to be harmless.
A broken back without the fall
Don't ignore back pain, height loss, or osteoporosis. They could be signs of a compression fracture.
You didn't fall, and you didn't do anything strenuous. So it may come as a surprise when the bad back pain you've been experiencing turns out to be one or more broken bones in your back. "A common story is that someone bends down to put something in the dishwasher or steps off a curb a little hard and puts additional load on their spine. The weakened bone is not adequate to take that load, and it collapses," says Dr. Julia Charles, a rheumatologist and bone cell researcher at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital.
What weakens the spine?
Your spine contains about 30 bones called vertebrae, stacked on top of each other like a roll of quarters. Each vertebra consists of an external bone surface (like plaster), and an inside filled with a honeycomb of support rods called trabeculae.
I’m in pain, so why is my doctor suggesting a psychologist?
The negative emotions that come from coping with chronic pain can lead to depression, and that very depression can lead to worse pain. Understanding the connection between pain and emotional health with the help of a psychologist can address these issues, and there are evidence-based therapies that can help as well.
Navigating back pain treatments: Can a physiatrist help?
Almost everyone experiences back pain at some point, but if the pain does not subside within a few weeks of standard treatment, or if chronic pain is an ongoing issue, a physiatrist may be able to provide relief or advise what next steps to take.
Babying your back may delay healing
Exercise and movement may be the best medicine for back pain.
You might be considering surgery or other intervention to treat your back pain. But less may actually be more for this common problem, and in many instances the best medicine is good old-fashioned movement and exercise.
The enigma of back pain
Back pain is one of the most common medical problems in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health. It's also a little strange as far as ailments go.
Early therapy helps people with low back pain avoid medication
In the journals
If you suffer from low back pain and want to avoid taking strong pain medication, you might want to consult a physical therapist first, suggests a recent study published online May 23, 2018, by Health Services Research.
Researchers reviewed insurance claims for approximately 150,000 adults, ages 18 to 64, who had been newly diagnosed with low back pain. They found that those who first consulted a physical therapist had an 89% lower probability of receiving an opioid prescription compared with those who saw another type of medical provider. They were also less likely to have an MRI or CT scan or to seek out emergency care for their pain.
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