Back pain is one of the most common problems that people complain about. The pain can vary from mild to severe. It can go away on its own within a day or two, or it can last for weeks or even months. If the pain is really bothering you, especially if it doesn’t go away for days or weeks, and is associated with other symptoms, you must get a proper back pain diagnosis and treatment.
The lower back is a complex structure and is made up of bones, tendons, discs, nerves and spinal muscles. Because of this complexity, it’s not that easy to pinpoint what caused the pain. The following are the most common sources of back pain
- Irritation of the large nerve roots located in the low back down to the legs.
- Irritation of smaller nerve roots.
- Strained low back muscles.
- Damaged joints, ligaments or bones.
- Degenerated intervertebral disc.
Diagnosis for back pain
To effectively treat the condition, a proper lower back pain diagnosis is necessary. With the help of diagnosis, the pain will be categorized, which narrows things down and makes it easier to find the right treatment. The three pain categories are the following:
- Axial low back pain
This is the most common kind of back pain. The pain is confined in the lower back and does not radiate to the legs and buttocks. It is characterized by either a dull or sharp pain which, when severe, can limit everyday activities like walking or standing. The pain worsens when the patient engages in certain activities like sports. This type of pain can be acute to chronic.
- Lumbar radiculopathy
Another common type of pain is lumbar radiculopathy, commonly known as sciatica. The pain results from the compression of the nerve roots of the sciatic nerve. It is caused by various conditions. The pain radiates from the back to the leg. Aside from the pain, this is also associated with weakness and numbness in the lower back, affecting the buttocks and entire length of the legs.
- With referred pain
In this category, the pain in the lower back radiates to the buttocks, upper thigh and groin. The pain is characterized as achy and dull, and can be acute to chronic.
When the pain still does not go away even after the initial diagnosis and treatment, additional diagnostic tools might be used. They are as follows:
This is used to test for spinal fractures, instability and tumors. It gives basic information on the spinal bones.
This allows identification of possible problems affecting the spine, nerve roots and spinal cord.
- CT scan
This displays cross-section images of the spinal discs and vertebrae. It is commonly used to check for spinal stenosis or herniated disc.
- MRI scan
This is more advanced than CT scan as it captures detailed cross-section images of the various components of the spine. It is most useful for identifying issues affecting the nerve roots and lumbar discs and determining if there are tumors or spinal infections. This is a great tool for severe lower back pain diagnosis.
Diagnosis for back pain symptoms
Identifying the symptoms of the back pain is also helpful in properly diagnosis its cause. The typical symptom is aching pain in the lower back which is intensified by lifting a heavy object or sudden movement. Other common symptoms include the following:
- Difficulty moving. When severe, it can make standing or walking difficult
- Pain that radiates in the upper thigh, buttocks, groin and legs
- Local soreness
- Muscle spasms
- Achy, dull or sharp pain
Lower back pain diagnosis and treatment must go together. The kind of treatment that must be administered upon the patient should be based upon the result of the diagnosis. The most common treatments include low impact aerobic exercise, chiropractic manipulation, epidural steroid injections and surgery.
Differential diagnosis for back pain
Differential diagnosis is important in back pain. In medicine, the term refers to the kind of diagnosis by distinguishing conditions and diseases with similar clinical features. The conditions associated with back pain are more or less the same, which is why distinguishing them is a vital part of the whole diagnostic process. If you really want to find out what is the underlying cause of your severe pain, you might consider getting chronic back pain differential diagnosis.