Back Pain Symptoms:
Where do you start with Back Pain Diagnosis?
In a nutshell, your Back Pain Symptoms will depend on both the condition and the structure that is causing the pain.
Before deciding on an appropriate treatment for back pain, it is essential to diagnose carefully.
Let's get a few principles sorted out first. Back pain can be either sudden or gradual in onset.
Acute back pain can be defined as lasting less than five days while chronic back pain is defined as lasting more than 3 months.
Once you acheive and early back pain diagnosis, the time before acute pain becomes chronic pain is the best time to get mechanical help
(e.g. from your local Physiotherapist).
Back pain can be felt centrally in the back, on one side only or can radiate down the leg with or without back symptoms.
When I work with individuals in my clinic, I generally look for one of 3 types of Back Pain:
- Muscle and ligament pain.
This is an easy one to notice - injured muscles and ligaments in your back symptomatically SCREAM at you if you stretch or bend your back.
Generally the symptoms are only in the area where the soft tissues have been strained.
You will usually feel the event happening in a sudden onset.
I see this type of back pain symptom a lot in sportspeople and gardeners!
- Disc pain.
This is one I see a lot.
Symptoms vary from severe lower back pain by itself, to no back pain at all
- but with pain and/or tingling in the hip, thigh and lower outside leg. Pins and needles and/or numbness may be present.
These symptoms in the leg(s) are known as sciatica.
In more severe cases the foot will feel weak and you may feel a dragging sensation in your ankle when you walk.
Passing urine and/or stools may be urgently felt or uncontrolled - a situation which usually requires
immediate medical attention.
- Medical conditions.
The most common conditions I see are spinal stenosis
where the spinal canal is narrowed and nerves are trapped sending pain down one or both legs.
In this case, lower back and/or leg pain is aggravated by walking and eased by bending forwards.
Other medical conditions that I come across frequently include:
- Fibromyalgia - This is a commonly labelled condition where we suffer from multiple pains in our back,
neck and shoulders. It can be difficult to diagnose.
Mechanically it involves multiple tender points in the muscles of the back and neck and results in general fatigue.
It is largely treated by drugs but I have come across numerous people who have benefited greatly with advice and treatments from their Chartered Physiotherapist. Some are now pain free.
- Arthritis - Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory condition which often affects the back.
Although medical intervention is very important, physiotherapy procedures can significantly help and ease the symptoms.
- Degenerated discs - As with your car your body parts degenerate with age and use.
However, on a daily basis I see people who have lived with moderate to severe back pain associated with this condition for a long time,
and after just one treatment with some simple advice their symptoms are greatly dimished. Wear and tear
does not mean you must live with it!
- Scoliosis - This is a twist or deviation in the spine, which can be present from birth or can develop due to poor posture
or when the body adopts a coping mechanism to avoid pain. Responses to scoliosis treatments are usually very positve.
In my own practice, treatment involves releasing the tensions on the tight side of the curve and showing you specific exercises to
strengthen the other side. Simple but true!
- Kyphosis - This is a birth posture anomaly that can frequently result from a repetitive postural position.
I see it mainly in office workers. Posture correction through Pilates usually provides quick relief and often correction.
The earlier the detection the better.
- Sacro-iliac joint strain - Commonly seen in women. Can result from poor postural habits or pre, mid or post-pregnancy.
It also has a large hormonal influence and therefore can cause lower back pain around the time of ovulation and period.
Laxity of ligaments seen in pregnancy can also cause mild to severe lower back pain in this area.
Stability of the pelvis through positioning, exercise and a lumbar support belt can provide immediate relief from same.
- Pubic-symphysis strain - Also commonly seen in pregnancy due to the laxity of ligaments caused hormonally.
It can be relieved quickly with positioning, through mobilisation and support taping.
These are just some of the back pain symptoms I treat on a daily basis in my own clinic.
I hope I have helped you to diagnose the type of back pain you may have. If you still feel unsure -
please go to your local Doctor or Chartered physiotherapist for help.
Remember - you and your doctor/physio need to get to know, and understand, your condition.
This will ensure that any back pain treatment will be effective over the the long-term.
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