If you see your doctor for back pain, he or she will examine your back and assess your ability to sit, stand, walk and lift your legs. Your doctor might also ask you to rate your pain on a scale of zero to 10 and talk to you about how well you’re functioning with your pain.
These assessments help determine where the pain comes from, how much you can move before pain forces you to stop and whether you have muscle spasms. They will also help rule out more-serious causes of back pain.
If there is reason to suspect a specific condition may be causing your back pain, your doctor may order one or more tests:
- X-ray. These images show the alignment of your bones and whether you have arthritis or broken bones. These images alone won’t show problems with your spinal cord, muscles, nerves or disks.
- MRI or CT scans. These scans can generate images that may reveal herniated disks or problems with bones, muscles, tissue, tendons, nerves, ligaments and blood vessels.
- Blood tests. These can help determine whether you have an infection or other condition that might be causing your pain.
- Bone scan. In rare cases, your doctor may use a bone scan to look for bone tumors or compression fractures caused by osteoporosis.
- Nerve studies (electromyography, or EMG). This test measures the electrical impulses produced by the nerves and the responses of your muscles. This test can confirm nerve compression caused by herniated disks or narrowing of your spinal canal (spinal stenosis).
Prevention of the Back Pain
- Good posture is important to keep your bones, nerves, muscles, ligaments and discs working well together. Keeping your muscles toned and exercised is the key to maintaining good posture and preventing back pain.
- A health care professional, such as your GP, a physiotherapist or orthopaedic or sports medicine specialist, may be able to suggest exercises for flexibility, strength and stability. If you exercise your back daily with the right routine you will strengthen and improve the flexibility of your spine. Prevention of the Back Pain.
- Gradually increase your general fitness by walking, cycling or swimming for 20–30 minutes each day.
- Doing too much activity or doing too little are both harmful to your back. If you push yourself too hard, injury can result. On the other hand, if you are out of shape you won’t be able to maintain good posture. This may result in undue stress to your spine.
- Emotional stress can make a back problem worse, contributing to muscle strains and spasms.
Other tips to keep your back healthy
- If you sit for long periods, raise your hips slightly higher than your knees by placing a slender pillow under your hips, and support the lower curve of your back with another pillow.
- If you stand for long periods, place one foot on a stool.
- Change your position during the day by having both standing and sitting tasks, and take frequent breaks.
- Learn how to lift, reach, push and pull correctly. Let your legs do most of the lifting by bending them, not your back, when lifting. Hold items close to your body even if they aren’t heavy.
- Don’t smoke, because nicotine decreases blood flow to your back. Injuries occur more often and healing takes longer in smokers.
Think about your posture right now
- Are you sitting hunched at a computer and reading this online? Hunched over in a chair? As simple as it sounds, maintaining good posture can make a big difference in keeping your back healthy and avoiding back pain.
- Gravity is always trying to pull us down and this combined with bad habits can mean we stand and sit in ways that aren’t good for our back. We might put all our weight on one side, slump over or even lock our knees while standing. When we hold these awkward postures for hours at a time we put additional strain on the back muscles and stress on the spine.
See also: “Treatments For Back Pain“
Taking care of your back (More tips to prevent back pain)
So what does good posture look like?
The advice your mother gave you to ‘stand/sit up straight’ is still valid today! A great posture while standing might look like this:
- Straight back – imagine a piece of string is going from your head to the top of the ceiling.
- Shoulders back and shoulder blades down.
- Chin slightly up Here’s an easy way to remember:
If you can draw a straight line from your earlobe through your shoulder, hip, knee, to the middle of your ankle.