Back pain is a common ailment that affects numerous people worldwide. Regardless of whether it’s a dull ache or a sharp, shooting sensation, it can significantly impact your daily life. When seeking medical help for back pain, understanding how doctors evaluate and diagnose the problem is essential.
The Initial Assessment
When you visit a healthcare provider for back pain, they will begin by conducting an initial assessment. This assessment involves discussing your symptoms, medical history, and any previous injuries.
It is crucial to provide your doctor with accurate and detailed information to help in the diagnosis process. The doctor may ask questions such as:
- When did the pain start?
- Is the pain constant or intermittent?
- Does anything alleviate or worsen the pain?
- Have you experienced any recent trauma or injury?
After gathering information about your symptoms and medical history, your doctor will perform a physical examination.
During the physical exam, the doctor will evaluate various aspects related to your back pain. They may:
Observe Your Posture
The doctor will look at your standing and sitting posture to identify any abnormalities or imbalances that may contribute to your back pain.
Check Your Range of Motion
The doctor will ask you to perform certain movements to evaluate your flexibility and range of motion. This helps identify any restrictions or limitations caused by musculoskeletal issues.
Palpate the Affected Area
Gentle palpation allows the doctor to feel for tenderness, muscular spasms, or other abnormalities in specific areas of your back.
Perform Neurological Tests
The doctor may conduct tests to assess your nerve function, such as checking reflexes, muscle strength, and sensation. These tests help identify potential nerve compression or damage.
In some cases, diagnostic tests may be necessary to gain a better understanding of the underlying cause of your back pain. These tests can include:
X-rays provide images of bones and can help identify fractures, bone spurs, or other abnormalities in the spine.
MRI or CT scan
These imaging tests provide detailed images of soft tissues like muscles, discs, and nerves, allowing the doctor to evaluate conditions such as herniated discs, tumors, or spinal stenosis.
Blood tests may be ordered to check for signs of infection, inflammation, or certain medical conditions that could be contributing to your back pain.
Commonly Diagnosed Causes of Back Pain
Back pain can have various causes, and understanding these common diagnoses can provide insight into the potential source of your discomfort.
Here are some frequently diagnosed conditions associated with back pain:
1. Muscle Strain or Sprain
Typical causes of back pain are strains and sprains. These can occur due to sudden movement, lifting heavy objects incorrectly, or overexertion.
The muscles and ligaments in the back can become stretched or torn, leading to localized pain and stiffness.
2. Herniated Disc
Also known as a slipped or ruptured disc, this condition can cause intense back pain.
The discs act as cushions between the vertebrae, and when the outer layer tears, the inner gel-like material may protrude, putting pressure on nearby nerves.
3. Spinal Stenosis
This condition involves the narrowing of the spinal canal. This puts untoward pressure on the spinal cord and nerves.
This condition is often age-related and can cause back pain, weakness, numbness, and cramping in the legs.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that commonly affects the spine. Over time, the cartilage that cushions the joints wears down, causing bones to rub against each other. This can result in inflammation, stiffness, and back pain.
Spondylolisthesis refers to a condition where one vertebra slips forward or backward onto an adjacent vertebra.
This misalignment can put pressure on the spinal nerves, leading to back pain, muscle tightness, and numbness or weakness in the legs.
Sciatica causes pain to the length of the sciatic nerve, which extends from the lower back down to the legs. It typically results from the compression or irritation of the nerve.
7. Spinal Fractures
Fractures in the vertebrae can occur due to trauma, osteoporosis (a condition causing weakened bones), or other underlying medical conditions.
These fractures can cause severe back pain, limited mobility, and a hunched posture.
Back Pain Doctor in St. Peters, O’Fallon & Wentzville, MO
Back pain can be debilitating, affecting your daily activities and overall quality of life. When seeking medical help for back pain, understanding the evaluation and diagnosis process can help you navigate your treatment journey more effectively. By providing accurate information, participating in physical examinations, and undergoing necessary diagnostic tests, you and your healthcare provider can work together to determine the underlying cause of your back pain.
You can trust the providers at Advanced Bone & Joint if you are looking for the best back doctor in Missouri. You may call our helpful staff today at (636) 229-4222 for questions or concerns. You can schedule a consultation with the best orthopedic surgeon near you through our online request form.
We look forward to serving you!