Back Pain: When to Pay Attention

Adult woman is holding her lower back, suffering from unbearable pain.Back pain is one of the most common health complaints reported by American adults. It is so common, though, that it is treated as normal. People believe that their back pain is just a part of aging, and they often live with it for far too long. While a headache here and there, a sore neck, or occasional tightness in the low back may be no big deal, there are times at which it is important to really pay attention to these symptoms. Sometimes, unattended pain continues to get worse. Here, we look at a few symptoms that may suggest an underlying problem that would benefit from medical management or treatment.

Chronic Dull Back Pain

There is a common misconception that dull pain cannot be an indicator of a potentially significant problem. Back pain that occurs after working in the yard or sleeping on an unsupportive mattress is understandable. Back pain, even that which is mild in nature is not. If minor pain in any part of the spine persists for more than a few weeks, it is wise to schedule a consultation with your doctor. X-rays or other imaging may identify mild degeneration of a disc or another structural problem that can be managed with conservative therapies.

Sharp Back Pain

Sharp and shooting back pain could be a sign of nerve compression. Even if not constant, sharp pain can indicate a problem that needs treatment. This symptom may also feel like pain that travels down an arm or leg. A doctor can evaluate these symptoms to determine which part of the spine is involved and how to free the compressed nerve. This can often be done without surgery.

Changes in Gait

Low back pain can cause a person to change the way they walk. They may stoop or walk with a hitch in their step to compensate for pain in one area. The problem is, this change places additional stress on a different area of the body. This excess can result in faster degradation of affected spinal discs or other joints, including the knee or hip.

Neck Pain that Limits Range of Motion

If neck pain makes it difficult to look up or down, or pain occurs when turning the head from side to side, we may also suspect nerve compression. Neck pain is commonly the result of poor posture. It may also result from an untreated whiplash injury, even years after the injury occurred. With or without severe pain, limitations in range of motion should be evaluated so the underlying problem can be treated conservatively.

Back pain is a symptom, it is not the problem. To understand the source of your back pain, consult with a specialist. Contact our NYC office at 212-606-1004 to schedule a visit with Dr. Albert.

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