Approximately 8 out of 10 people living in the United States will experience back pain at least once throughout their lifetime. Fortunately, many healthcare professionals, including chiropractors and physical therapists, are qualified and experienced in the treatment of back pain. Because symptoms of back pain may occur due to a variety of health issues, however, properly diagnosing the source of an individual’s back pain in order to treat them accordingly may often be difficult.
Chiropractic care is a well-known, alternative treatment option commonly utilized to diagnose, treat and prevent a variety of injuries and/or conditions associated with the musculoskeletal and nervous system. A chiropractor, or doctor of chiropractic, will carefully use spinal adjustments and manual manipulations, among other treatment methods, to safely and effectively correct any spinal misalignment, or subluxation, found along the length of the spine which may be causing symptoms of back pain. By restoring the original alignment of the spine, a chiropractor can improve the function of the spine, allowing the human body to naturally heal itself without the need for invasive procedures and/or the use of drugs and/or medications.
Chiropractic care can improve a patient’s ability to better manage their back pain symptoms because it can help reduce pain and discomfort, decreases inflammation, and improves strength, mobility, and flexibility. Furthermore, a chiropractor may recommend lifestyle modifications, including nutritional changes and fitness advice, to speed up the patient’s recovery process. However, before seeking any type of treatment for your specific symptoms of back pain, it’s essential to understand the different types of back pain, its symptoms and its causes as well as what you can expect from a doctor visit for back pain.
Upper, Mid Back, Low and Lower Back
Back pain is one of the most common complaints frequently reported in doctor office visits on a regular basis. As a matter of fact, back pain has been identified to affect approximately three in four adults at least once through their lifetime. When referring to “back pain” healthcare professionals utilize the term loosely to medically define it as pain which originates anywhere between the upper back, or the cervical spine, and the lower back, or the lumbar spine, regardless of the cause of the symptoms.
Other Symptoms Associated with Back Pain
Back pain can also be characterized by different types of pain. Acute back pain is identified as short-term but severe in nature. Chronic back pain is long-term and may vary in intensity. It can often be severe, but it may also be identified as mild, deep, achy, burning, or electric-like in nature. Back pain which radiates into another part of the body, including the upper and/or lower extremities, is identified as radicular pain, particularly when it radiates below the knee, into the feet. This type of back pain is commonly known as lumbar radiculopathy. Fortunately, not all types of back pain include radiating pain symptoms.
- It is not uncommon for back pain to cause other symptoms, such as numbness and tingling sensations, stiffness, achiness, and weakness. Furthermore, specific activities are known to aggravate existing back pain symptoms. Everyday activities like sitting, walking, standing, bending over, and twisting at the waist are several movements which can make back pain worse. However, not every patient will experience every symptoms associated with their specific type of back pain. Symptoms of back pain generally depend on the diagnosis, level of the injury and/or condition affecting the spine, or cause of back pain.
Dr. Alex Jimenez’s Insight
Back pain is a common symptom which affects about 80 percent of the population at least once throughout their lifetime. Because a variety of injuries and/or conditions may be the cause of back pain symptoms, many healthcare professionals consider the diagnosis of back pain to be difficult, however, back pain specialists, including chiropractors and physical therapists, can safely and effectively diagnose the source of an individual’s back pain symptoms. As a chiropractor, the use of spinal adjustments and manual manipulations can help naturally restore the original structure and function of the spine, without the need for drugs and/or medications or surgical interventions.
Understanding Back Pain Doctor Terms
When you visit a doctor regarding your symptoms, they may often use terms such as thoracic, lumbar, lumbosacral, or sacrum to describe your type of back pain. Back pain can originate anywhere along the spine, therefore, a healthcare professional will use the following terms to describe the source of the patient’s symptoms. The different regions of the spine are explained below.
- The cervical spine refers to your neck.
- The thoracic spine is found along the upper and middle regions of the back and where your ribs attach to the spinal column.
- The lumbar spine refers to your low back.
- The lumbosacral is found along the low back, sacrum, and the tailbone, also referred to as the coccyx.
- The sacrum refers to the part of the spine that is at the back of your pelvis.
Back pain can be challenging to properly diagnose because the spine consists of 17 vertebral bones, from the upper back to the tailbone, many joints, the sacrum and tailbone. In addition, the spine is made up of other fibrous and muscular supporting structures, intervertebral discs, the spinal cord and nerve roots, as well as blood vessels. Trauma from an injury, such as a back sprain/strain from lifting and twisting simultaneously, can cause immediate and severe back pain which may often become debilitating if left untreated.
Not all cases of back pain are due to trauma from an injury. Many other spinal health issues are congenital, meaning they developed since birth, degenerative or associated with age, due to disease, and they may even be connected to poor posture, obesity or the result of an unhealthy lifestyle habit, such as smoking. In other cases, the back pain may be worse than the severity of the injury and/or conditions causing it, which raises the question, “When should I seek medical attention for back pain?” If you are experiencing symptoms of back pain, among others commonly associated with spine health issues, you should seek immediate medical attentions if:
- You cannot stand upright;
- Fever accompanies pain;
- Loss of bladder or bowel function or control occurs;
- Leg pain and/or weakness progressively worsens; or if
- Pain is relentless or worsens.
It’s normal for patients with back pain to feel afraid and anxious about seeking medical attention for their symptoms. Most individuals who experience severe and debilitating back pain will intuitively known when it’s time to receive the proper health care they need for their spinal health issues. Many healthcare professionals, such as chiropractors and physical therapists, are qualified and experienced back pain specialists who will help safely and effectively treat your specific back pain.
What to Expect from a Back Pain Specialist
Whether your doctor office visit is due to the urgent symptoms above or if you’re simply seeking immediate medical attention to prevent worsening back pain, below is a list of what you can expect in a back pain specialist visit. In order to properly diagnose the source of the patient’s back pain symptoms, a healthcare professional will first:
- Review your medical history, including that of immediate family members who also have spinal health issues. Some instances of back pain, like scoliosis and osteoporosis, have a genetic potential.
- Discuss when back pain started, what you were doing when the symptoms started, current severity and characteristics of your back pain as well as how these may have changed since they began, among other questions. Your doctor wants to learn as much about your pain and discomfort before they evaluate you accordingly—while the exam may be uncomfortable at first, your doctor doesn’t want to make the process intolerable.
- Physical examination to evaluate your vital signs, including heart rate. Blood pressure levels may become elevated as a result of pain. The doctor will examine your spine, feeling for abnormalities and areas of tenderness.
- Neurological examination involves assessing sensation and function. The doctor may employ the pin prick test to determine if feeling is the same on both sides of particular parts of the body. Function, strength, mobility and flexibility are assessed while you walk, bend forward and backward (if able to), and during other movements. The doctor may also test your reflexes.
After a thorough examination, a healthcare professional should then be able to come up with a proper diagnosis for the patient’s back pain. To obtain more information and to help confirm the diagnosis, the doctor may order an X-ray, CT scan, or MRI. Sometimes lab tests may be ordered as well. It’s essential to keep in mind that an accurate diagnosis is essential towards a well-developed treatment plan. Once a proper diagnosis has been established, a healthcare professional will begin treatment accordingly, utilizing the recommended treatment methods for the patient’s specific cause of their back pain. Furthermore, a doctor may also be able to advice the patient regarding the best treatment methods to prevent further back pain.
In conclusion, back pain is a common symptoms which affects a majority of the population in the United States on a regular basis. Understanding the different types of back pain, its symptoms and its causes is essential towards receiving the right treatment from a qualified and experienced healthcare professional. Several procedures can be expected in a doctor office visit for back pain. Chiropractic care is a popular, alternative treatment option commonly utilized to help treat back pain and other injuries and/or conditions associated with the musculoskeletal and nervous system. A chiropractor, or doctor of chiropractic, will utilize spinal adjustments and manual manipulations to carefully restore the natural integrity of the spine, reducing symptoms of back pain. The overview above can help patient’s understand the process they must undergo in order to find relief from their back pain. The scope of our information is limited to chiropractic as well as to spinal injuries and conditions. To discuss the subject matter, please feel free to ask Dr. Jimenez or contact us at 915-850-0900 .
Curated by Dr. Alex Jimenez
Additional Topics: Back Pain
According to statistics, approximately 80% of people will experience symptoms of back pain at least once throughout their lifetimes. Back pain is a common complaint which can result due to a variety of injuries and/or conditions. Often times, the natural degeneration of the spine with age can cause back pain. Herniated discs occur when the soft, gel-like center of an intervertebral disc pushes through a tear in its surrounding, outer ring of cartilage, compressing and irritating the nerve roots. Disc herniations most commonly occur along the lower back, or lumbar spine, but they may also occur along the cervical spine, or neck. The impingement of the nerves found in the low back due to injury and/or an aggravated condition can lead to symptoms of sciatica.