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When to See a Specialist About Lower Back Pain

When to See a Specialist About Lower Back Pain

A shocking 65 million Americans have lower back pain — some 16 million live with it day in and day out. Unfortunately, time constraints, financial concerns, and other factors keep many from getting the care they need. 

We know that it isn’t always easy to get into a specialist’s office, but we also know the dangers of leaving back pain to its own devices. Left untreated, back pain can transition from a nuisance to a real problem. You could wind up with permanent damage, decreased mobility, even depression and mood changes. 

Here, our team of experts at Somers Orthopaedic Surgery & Sports Medicine Group takes the guesswork out of lower back pain and asks a few important questions that will help you make the right decision. 

How long have you been in pain?

Sometimes, an awkward movement or a bad night of sleep can cause back pain to show up suddenly. However, it typically subsides after a few days. That type of back pain probably doesn’t need treatment. If your back pain has lasted more than two weeks, it’s time to make an appointment. 

What treatments have you tried?

One of the first places you turn when back pain strikes is likely your medicine cabinet. Fortunately, conservative methods like over-the-counter painkillers and hot and cold compresses are sometimes all it takes to quell a bout of back pain. 

If your symptoms aren’t responding to your usual strategies, it may be a sign that something more than a mild muscle strain is at play.

How severe is your pain?

Can you still get through your normal routine even with a twinge in your back? You should keep an eye on it, but you probably don’t need to see us. In fact, staying active and avoiding long periods of bed rest are great ways to shake off mild back pain. 

Once your symptoms become so uncomfortable that you can’t make it through the day, you should consider getting next-level treatment. 

When back pain is an emergency

It’s true that not all cases of back pain require treatment. However, it’s important that you’re able to recognize when your symptoms have crossed the line and become an emergency. 

Seek emergency medical attention if you have severe back pain, loss of bladder or bowel control, and/or loss of strength in your arms or legs. You should also consider getting help for back pain if it follows trauma, such as a car accident or fall. 

How we diagnose and treat back pain

Our first step in diagnosing and treating back pain is to gather as much information as possible. We conduct a thorough review of your medical history, symptoms, and lifestyle factors (sleeping habits, physical activity, etc.). We also ask detailed questions that help us better understand the origin of your back pain, such as:

Then, we walk you through a physical exam to assess your nerve function and mobility. If necessary, we may order some diagnostic imaging tests to fully understand your situation. 

Back pain can stem from a wide range of conditions, including:

Once we determine what’s causing your back pain, we create a customized treatment plan to address it. In many cases, we can ease your pain and restore function without surgery. Some of our conservative options include:

Should you require procedural intervention, we have both nonsurgical spine specialists and board-certified spine surgeons who perform minimally invasive procedures to help you find relief from your pain without spending long periods in recovery. 

Think it’s time to get help for your back pain? Don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment online or over the phone at any of our five conveniently located offices. 

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