Back Pain – Low – Symptoms, Causes, Tests – NY Times …

Posted: July 19, 2015 at 3:44 am

Back to TopWhat to Expect at Your Office Visit

When you first see your doctor, you will be asked questions about your back pain, including how often it occurs and how severe it is. Your doctor will try to determine the cause of your back pain and whether it is likely to quickly get better with simple measures such as ice, mild painkillers, physical therapy, and proper exercises. Most of the time, back pain will get better using these approaches.

Questions will include:

During the physical exam, your doctor will try to pinpoint the location of the pain and figure out how it affects your movement. You will be asked to:

Your doctor will also move your legs in different positions, including bending and straightening your knees. All the while, the doctor is assessing your strength as well as your ability to move.

To test nerve function, the doctor will use a rubber hammer to check your reflexes. Touching your legs in many locations with a pin, cotton swab, or feather tests your sensory nervous system (how well you feel). Your doctor will instruct you to speak up if there are areas where the sensation from the pin, cotton, or feather is duller.

Most people with back pain recover within four to six weeks. Therefore, your doctor will probably not order any tests during the first visit. However, if you have any of the symptoms or circumstances below, your doctor may order imaging tests even at this initial exam:

In these cases, the doctor is looking for a tumor, infection, fracture, or serious nerve disorder. The symptoms above are clues that one of these conditions may be present. The presence of a tumor, infection, fracture, or serious nerve disorder change how your back pain is treated.

Tests that might be ordered include an x-ray, myelogram (an x-ray or CT scan of the spine after dye has been injected into the spinal column), CT of the lower spine, or MRI of the lower spine.

Hospitalization, traction, or spinal surgery should only be considered if nerve damage is present or the condition fails to heal after a prolonged period.

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