Health Wellness, Prevention Healthcare

When Do you Need to See a Doctor for Back Pain

Back pain is one of the most common health conditions that affects 8 out of 10 people at some point during their lives. Usually, the symptoms of back pain can be troublesome but short-lived and can last for some days. However, your back pain can be chronic if the symptoms have been bothering you for longer than 3 months. While younger adults face back pain majorly due to lifestyle-related causes, elderly people are at risk due to advancing age. It is pivotal to schedule regular health checkup for senior citizens.

What may be giving you back pain?

  • Strain in the muscles is one of the most common causes of back pain. Factors like incorrect lifting of heavy objects, improper posture, and sudden body movements can lead to muscle strain. While the discomfort from a typical muscle strain can last between three to six weeks, more severe muscle strains can take several weeks or a few months.
  • Over activity after prolonged periods of inactivity (such as playing a sport once in a while) can also cause temporary stiffness and pain.
  • Injured discs (tissue that cushion the spaces between each vertebra) is a leading cause of back pain.
  • Spinal osteoarthritis that occurs due to damage of cartilages of joints in your lower back can lead to back pain.

Thinning of the bone, called osteoporosis, can result in small fractures in your vertebrae which can cause pain. Vitamin D is an important nutrient that can help manage bone thinning. Though there is not enough data, various studies have shown that low levels of vitamin D can be a cause of increased joint and muscle pain. Women are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis than men.


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When to worry and see a doctor for my back pain?

Do you keep ignoring back pain until it starts hampering daily routine activities? One primary reason for this is back pain can come and go. But, it may become chronic and be continuously present. You can benefit from taking over-the-counter pain relievers, anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce inflammation, and resting for 1-2 days. Compresses can help decrease pain and inflammation and work quite well for some people. However, certain symptoms alongside back pain may warrant an immediate action or the need to see a doctor.

Seek medical attention if any of the following symptoms accompanies your back pain:

  • Increasing weakness in your legs
  • Loss of bladder and/or bowel control
  • Sudden spike in pain, discomfort, weakness or numbness
  • High fever
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • The pain results from a fall or severe blow to your back.

Do I need tests for back pain?

If the cause of your back pain is not very obvious, your treating doctor may advise:

  • Blood work up
  • Urine tests (to check for kidney related conditions that can give back pain at certain times)
  • X-rays, CT, or MRI scans of the spine to assess your discs, muscles, ligaments, nerves, and blood vessels
  • Bone scan to look for any aberrations in the bone tissue

Here are 4 quick tips to keep back pain away

1. Safeguard your discs right after waking

Maintain a straight back for an hour or two after waking in the morning. As per some studies, the pressure within your discs increases up to 240% when you sleep at night. At this time, your discs can be at a raised risk of herniation if made to bend or lift forces.

2. Choose your bag wisely

Heavy laptop bags and purses can add unnecessary stress to your neck and back. Carry less (only what is really required) and use bags (backpacks) that have wide straps to distribute the weight more evenly.

3. Invest in an ergonomic office chair, if you are working from home

Many of us may be actually working from bed while working from home. However, not having proper sitting posture and slouching forward during long work hours on laptops lead to excessive pressure on the back and can cause pain. Use a chair that helps you align and support your neck, back and thighs accurately. Take regular stretch breaks in between work.

4. Protect your back while lifting

Common everyday activities, such as unloading heavy grocery bags or lifting a toddler can lead to lower back problems. Bend at your knees, not at your lower back and hold the object close to your chest while keeping your spine straight.


Along with your back, keep an eye on your overall health as it may result in generalized body ache. Advancing age demands a little extra care. Do not ignore long-standing pain or worsening symptoms, especially in elderly. A full body checkup for senior citizens can be a good starting point to kick off the health journey.

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