Back Injuries: When Should You See Your Doctor?

Posted On: 04-15-2016
Back Injuries: When Should You See Your Doctor?

In most instances, back pain related to minor injuries resolves on its own by using conservative self-help measures. A severe injury causing neurological symptoms or chronic pain typically requires treatment by a medical professional. The following examines the appropriateness of self-help treatments for back pain, as well as how to know if you need to see a doctor.

Self-Help Measures for Back Pain

As a general rule, most minor back injuries can be successfully managed with the following home therapies:

• Rest—You should avoid any strenuous activities that can cause further injury to your back or exacerbate your pain. If you experience significant discomfort, you can give yourself a break with limited bed rest. This is most beneficial when you only lie down for a few hours at a time in any position that you find comfortable. You should limit bed rest to no more than one to two days. Extended periods of bed rest provide little additional therapeutic benefit and increase the risks of loss of muscle tone and conditioning, constipation, and the development of blood clots.

• Pain relievers—Over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatories can help ease discomfort.

• Ice and heat therapy—Alternating applications of heat and cold to the affected area can help alleviate pain and promote healing.

Symptoms Requiring Medical Attention

You should see your doctor if you still experience back pain after a week of conservative home treatment or if you have the following symptoms:

• There is swelling or redness on your back
• You experience weakness, tingling, or numbness in your legs
• The pain radiates down the leg, especially if it extends below the knees
• The pain is intense, constant, and interferes with sleep

You should call 911 or head to your nearest emergency room if your back injury:

• Occurred as the result of a fall, sports injury, or vehicle accident
• Occurs along with a fever
• Causes bowel or bladder incontinence

The Role of Pain Management in Treating Back Pain

In many instances of acute or chronic back pain, effective pain management can serve as an alternative to or in conjunction with surgical treatment. A pain management specialist can help in a variety of ways, including:

• Identifying the source of the pain
• Establishing an aggressive conservative care regimen that may eliminate the need for surgery
• Providing rehabilitation following surgery
• Helping patients deal with residual pain following surgery

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