Should My Back Pain Be a Concern? When Should I Seek Medical Treatment?

March 26, 2012

If you are having back pain, you are not alone. As one of the most common medical problems, back pain affects almost everybody. Indeed, 8 out of 10 people will experience back pain in their lifetime. But luckily, in most cases back pain will go away on its own, or with some self-treatment such as over-the-counter pain medication.

When to seek medical advice/treatment

However, if your back pain persists despite of your own back pain treatment, or if your back pain is accompanied by the following symptoms, you need to see your doctor for medical advice and treatment. 

However, if your back pain persists despite of your own back pain treatment, or if your back pain is accompanied by the following symptoms, you need to see your doctor for medical advice and treatment.

  • Numbness and tingling
  • Muscle weakness
  • Loss of bowel or bladder function
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fever

These symptoms could indicate more serious problems, such as pinched nerves or infection. Without proper treatment, your back pain, along with these symptoms, will not go away.

In addition, if your back pain occurs after a fall or a car accident, you should also seek immediate medical attention, because your back pain is most likely to be caused by muscle injuries or bone fractures.

Types of back pain treatment

Options of back pain treatment are generally classified into two categories: conservative back pain treatment and surgical back pain treatment. Conservative back pain treatment generally includes anti-inflammatory medication (over-the-counter or prescribed), exercise, and physical therapy. Surgical back pain treatment includes traditional open back surgery and modern minimally invasive spine surgery.

Doctors normally start a back pain treatment program with conservative options. In most cases, the pain will be reduced, or go away, after the conservative treatment. However, if the pain persists after a few months of conservative treatment, surgical treatment may be considered.

Doctors for back pain

If you are like most people with back pain, you probably don’t know the exact cause of your back pain. And the odds are, you may not know that there are many different types of doctors for back pain. If this is the case, pay a visit to your primary physician first. Your primary physician should be able to rule out certain problems based on your symptoms, medical history, and some basic tests. He or she may even be able to treat your back pain by prescribing some medications.

However, if your primary physician thinks your problem is more than he or she can treat, or your pain persists, he or she will refer you to a specialty doctor for back pain.

A specialty doctor for back pain is a medical doctor who specializes in treating back pain. The following are specialty doctors who are extensively trained for treating back pain and other medical problems.

  • Anesthesiologists: These doctors generally work with other doctors in healthcare settings such as hospitals and surgical centers. They can help patients in treating back pain by administering anesthesia.
  • Neurologists: These doctors diagnose and treat problems related to, or caused by the nervous system.
  • Neurosurgeons: These doctors treat problems concerning the nervous system by performing surgery.
  • Physiatrists: Specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation, physiatrists diagnose and treat musculoskeletal disorders with a focus of restoring functions.
  • Orthopedic surgeons: These doctors treat conditions involving the musculoskeletal system using surgical and nonsurgical methods.
  • Spine surgeons: These doctors treat back pain and spinal disorders by performing spinal surgery. Today, spine surgeons consist of traditional spinal surgeons who perform open back surgery, and endoscopic spine surgeons who perform minimally invasive back surgery.

Sure, back pain affects almost everybody. And it’s true that in most cases back pain is not a big concern. However, back pain can indicate more serious health problems such as disc herniation, spinal stenosis, or even infection. Without proper treatment, not only the back pain will not go away, serious consequences may also occur.

So if you have persistent back pain, or if your back pain is accompanied by the symptoms we mentioned above, you should seek medical treatment from your doctor.