How to tell if your back pain is serious | Norton Healthcare Louisville, Ky.

Is your back bothering you enough to see a doctor?

Your back pain may be serious and worth seeking treatment if it hasn’t improved after a few weeks or if the pain is connected to a fall or other injury. Numbness and tingling in the arms or legs are also signs that taking care of it yourself at home may not be enough.

If you have back pain, it can be difficult to know when it’s serious enough to get help. The pain may be in one part of your back, all over or even in other areas such as your rear end, legs or abdomen.

Lifting or bending. Sitting or standing. Even resting can aggravate the pain.

Your back pain may be serious and worth seeking treatment if it hasn’t improved after a few weeks or if the pain is connected to a fall or other injury. Numbness and tingling in the arms or legs are also signs that taking care of it yourself at home may not be enough.

Other symptoms in addition to the back pain such as trouble urinating, leg weakness or pain, fever or unintended weight loss are all signs that it’s time to see a health care provider.

“For many back conditions, your primary care provider can be the first stop,” said Lacey A. Jurich, APRN, a nurse practitioner and family medicine provider at Norton Community Medical Associates – Bardstown. “A primary care provider can assess whether you need to see a specialist. Back pain often can be addressed with medication, physical therapy and other conservative steps, but sometimes a minimally invasive surgical procedure is required.”

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Medication can help relieve pain or relax tense muscles. Other treatments can include:

  • Cold packs can relieve pain, and hot packs can increase blood flow and improve healing.
  • Limited physical activity, slowly increasing as you improve: Lying down all day doesn’t help — you need to move as much as you can without making your pain worse.
  • Physical therapy can strengthen muscles that support your spinal column and the rest of your back.
  • Be intentional about how you lift, push or pull so you don’t put strain on your back.
  • Quit smoking, get exercise, get regular sleep and eat healthier.

Surgery typically is considered only after other attempts have failed to bring relief. An operation isn’t right for everyone, and you can talk to your health care provider about your options.

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