Back Pain : Signs and Symptoms
Recognizing Back Pain
Back pain, while possibly generating from a number of causes, has symptoms that are highly recognizable. General stiffness, shooting pains, or pains that worsen when patients move their backs are all classic symptoms of back pain.
Questions to ask your patient
Assesing severity, onset, location, and timing of a patient’s pain is really important.
To more specifically guide treatment options, you may ask more specific questions, like:
- How did the pain start?
- Where does it hurt?
- Is the pain local or radiating?
- Is the pain present all the time, or just when you move or preform specific activities?
- Does rest ease the pain? Does it get worse?
When to refer your patient for further care1
If your patient is experiencing back pain following a serious fall, and/or is accompanied by any of these other symptoms, it may be time to refer them to a specialist.
- New bowel or bladder problems
- Severe pain that has not improved with rest
- Pain that spreads doen one or both legs, especially below the knee(s)
- Weakness or tingling in one or both legs
- Unexplained weight loss
Testing that may be carried out1
Once referred, physicians may conduct tests to rule out serious underlying causes, for example:
- X-rays to show skeletal alignment and diagnose if you have arthritis or fractures
- Magnetic resonance imaging or computed tomography scans for herniated disks or problems with bones, muscles, tissue, tendons nerves, ligaments, and blood vessels
- Blood tests to identify infection or other condition with hematological biomarkers
- Bone scans are used in rare cases for suspected bone tumors or compression fractures caused by osteoporosis
- Electromyography to confirm nerve compression caused by herniated disks or narrowing of the spinal canal (spinal stenosis)
Understanding Back Pain
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