When to Call a Doctor for Back Pain

By Jon Stiffler PTA/Sports Center Manager

When Should You Call a Doctor for Back Pain?

Although most back pain is caused by injuries that can heal in several days, there are times when you may need to contact a doctor. Particular injuries, such as injuries to your neck or cervical area, may require emergency treatment and the immediate attention of your doctor. In many cases of cervical disease, non-surgical management is all you may need to overcome injury. However, your doctor may need to order X-rays to see if your injury will require surgery. Your age, how long you’ve had the disease, previous operations on your neck, and other medical problems you might have, are all factors to be considered when you visit with your doctor.

Low back pain

Low back pain, probably the most common form of pain, seldom needs the treatment of a doctor. Again, self-treatment, such as rest, hot or cold packs, anti-inflammatory drugs, or Tylenol, may alleviate the problem in a few days. If your symptoms persist after two or three days, you may want to call a physician. Other symptoms you may have that might require immediate medical attention include numbness in your arms or legs, shooting pain that travels down your leg into your foot, the inability to stand erect, or loss of bladder or bowel control. If any of these symptoms occur, you need to see a physician as soon as possible.

JOI Low Back Muscles

Lower back muscles and low back pain

The Anatomy of Low Back Pain

Low back pain, often felt between the lower ribcage and the top of the legs, can be a result of a pinched nerve in the lower back. A comprehensive understanding of the low back’s structure, the root causes of pain, and the common risk factors can aid in better management and prevention of this condition. This includes understanding the common lower left back injuries and lower back muscle strains.

The low back or lumbar spine, comprising five vertebrae (L1 to L5), is a complex structure of bones, muscles, ligaments, and discs that supports the upper body and enables movement. Intervertebral discs, located between the vertebrae, function as shock absorbers and add flexibility. When the lower back hurts, these structures are usually affected.

Pain in the lower back, including lower back pain on the left side, can stem from muscle strains or sprains due to poor posture, incorrect lifting methods, or sudden movements. Other common causes include herniated discs, spinal stenosis, osteoarthritis, and degenerative disc disease. Certain medical conditions such as kidney stones, infections, or tumors can also induce low back pain.

Various risk factors can heighten the chances of experiencing low back pain, including age, lack of physical activity, obesity, and poor fitness levels. Occupations requiring heavy lifting, repetitive movements, or prolonged sitting are also risk factors. Psychological stresses like anxiety and depression can exacerbate symptoms of low back pain.

Identifying Symptoms and Diagnosing Low Back Pain

Recognizing the signs of low back pain, including symptoms of a pinched nerve in the lower back, is critical for determining its cause and seeking appropriate lower back pain treatment. Symptoms can vary in intensity and duration and may differ based on the specific condition.

Typical signs of low back pain are:

  • Dull, aching pain in the lower back
  • Lower left back pain radiating down to the buttocks and legs.
  • Muscle stiffness and tightness
  • Difficulty standing straight or walking.
  • Numbness or tingling sensation in the lower extremities

If these symptoms are present, it is crucial to consult a healthcare provider. Diagnostic procedures like X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans can help identify the root cause.

It’s important to distinguish between lower back muscle strain and sciatica as they have different causes and require different treatments. Muscle strain results from sudden movements or incorrect lifting techniques, while sciatica is caused by compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve, resulting in pain radiating down the leg.

When to Seek Professional Help

Recognizing when to consult a healthcare provider is crucial when dealing with low back pain. If your pain is severe, persistent, or accompanied by symptoms such as numbness, tingling, weakness, or difficulty controlling bladder or bowels, seek immediate medical attention.

Choosing the right specialist for your condition is essential. Specialists at JOI who commonly treat then entire spine include orthopedic surgeons and physiatrists.  Our goal is to help you get back to the activities that you love without pain.

Related Articles: Tips on How to Relieve Back Pain and 5 Ways to Treat Your SI Joint Dysfunction 

The JOI Spine Team

The Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute has assembled one of the most complete Spine Treatment Centers in the area.  The comprehensive spine team includes the following:

Orthopaedic Spine Surgeons, Physical Therapists, Massage Therapist, Acupuncturist, Robotic Spine Surgeons, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Physicians, Pain Management Specialists and Specially Trained Laser Clinicians.

Our goal is to provide all of these services in one center to make your recovery more convenient.

You can call 904-JOI-2000 or schedule online with a JOI Physician or to schedule physical therapy please call 904-858-7045.

If you want to learn more about your spine, please read low back pain

JOI Rehab has a Fast Track Spine Program to get you into Physical Therapy faster.

Fast Track Spine

Fast Track Spine Program

JOI and JOI Rehab

JOI Physicians are Northeast Florida’s most respected orthopedic practice.  We continue to offer online new patient appointments. This is another option to make it more convenient to make new patient appointments with less phone hold times. Follow the link below to select your JOI MD and schedule online.

You can still call 904-JOI-2000 to make new patient JOI Physician Appointments if that is your preference.

To make appointments with JOI Rehab, please call 904-858-7045.

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