Back pain, particularly lower back pain, is one of the most common conditions that most people experience in their lifetime. Practically no one is ever safe from back pain, even those who take good care of their bodies, since this condition often occurs with age. As we grow older, our body tends to become weaker, which in turn causes a number of problems that leads to low back pain. According to most back health specialists, lower back pain is one of the most difficult conditions to get an accurate diagnosis on, considering the many factors that causes it. In order to get the right back pain diagnosis, a number of exams and tests must be done on the patient.
One of the most common causes of back pain is muscle strain, often from overworking them or from keeping them in awkward positions. However, there are also many other more serious conditions that can cause back pains and many of these are associated with spinal problems. Some of the most common spinal conditions that can cause back pains are disc herniation, also called herniated discs, bulging discs, degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, and sciatica, to name a few. These conditions often cause impingement on the spinal cord and its nerve roots, which in turn cause muscle spasms and pain. For instance, with herniated disk, the nucleus pulposus of the disc leaks out and, typically, impinges on the nerve endings, causing inflammation and pain.
Aside from the common muscle strain and spinal conditions, back pain can also be caused by various other conditions that irritate and inflame the nerves, such as tumors and infections. Just like with shingles, shingles pain can be felt as a lower back pain if it appears on the lower back area. With this condition, the virus known as herpes zoster infects the nerve endings of the lower back that causes extreme pain.
Considering the many factors that can contribute to lower back pain, specialists often initially turn to a patient’s medical history. By understanding which conditions are most common with the patient, they can consider or rule out any current conditions that may or may not be associated with past problems. Oftentimes done before the physical examination, doctors would ask the patient certain questions that can provide them a better understanding of what problems they are dealing with.
Back pain is typically caused by nerve impingements in the body. During the physical examination, doctors would often test the condition and strength of the nerves in the body to check for the presence or absence of nerve problems. A number of things can be done to determine nerve damage. First, the doctor would let the patient walk around using the heels, toes, and soles of the feet. Nerve reflexes are then checked using a reflex hammer, which is often done at the knee and ankle areas. Leg raise, while the patient lies down, can also help determine nerve damage on the lower extremities. Pain diagnosis is then conducted to test sensation; doctors would use sharp objects to stimulate the legs and feet.
In cases where the doctor finds some neurological damage in the body, further tests may be conducted, such as abdominal, pelvic, and rectal examinations. These can help determine which exact location is being affected by the condition, consequently helping with the diagnosis.
Various imaging technologies can also help provide a more accurate diagnosis. X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, and myelograms are the most common imaging technologies used to diagnose back pain. During diagnosis however, the use of just one technique is insufficient and doctors often require the use of several techniques to get a more accurate reading. As for chronic back pain cases, nerve tests, such as electromyograms, can help determine the level of nerve damage.
Through various exams, tests, and imaging techniques, a back specialist can get a better and accurate back pain diagnosis of the pain and subsequently prescribe the ideal treatment for it. As a result, a common back pain won’t develop into something far more serious and far more fatal.