Back pain is one of the most commonly reported medical problems in society as well as the leading cause of job related disability. It is estimated to affect 8 out of 10 people at some point in their lives.
Back pain can occur slowly over time due to changes as we age, or can occur suddenly from injury. Back pain can be acute (short term) lasting a few days to a few weeks, or chronic (long term) persisting for more than 3 months. It is important to understand that most back pain will resolve itself within a few weeks.
Anyone can develop back pain at any point in their lives; however there are certain risk factors that may predispose you to developing back pain.
These include the following:
Increasing age raises your risk of developing back pain due to decreased bone strength and muscle tone. Discs can lose their flexibility and deteriorate with age causing less cushioning between the vertebrae.
Evaluating the source of back pain is critical in determining your treatment options for relief of the pain.
Dr Hsu or Dr Singh will take a comprehensive medical history and perform a physical examination. Depending on what the history and exam show, your NSWSS spinal surgeon or your GP may order medical tests to determine the cause of your back pain.
Diagnostic studies may include:
magnetic and radio waves are used to create a computer image of soft tissue such as nerves and ligaments.
CT scan with myelogram: a type of medical imaging which is done by injecting contrast medium into the affected area of the spine followed by CT scan of the area that creates 3D images from multiple x-rays.
Treatment for back pain will depend on the cause of the pain and whether the pain is acute or chronic.
Acute back pain, the most common type of back pain, usually gets better on its own. Treatment guidelines for acute back pain include:
If your back pain persists, interferes with your sleep and daily activities, and does not respond to conservative treatment, your NSWSS surgeon may suggest surgery.
Surgical treatment is rarely the first choice for back pain unless Cauda equina syndrome, a medical emergency, has been diagnosed. Dr Hsu or Dr Singh will likely order conservative treatment methods first as previously described.
Some of the medical diagnoses that may need surgical intervention include:
All surgical procedures involve risks. The information provided here is for general educational purposes only. For specific advice regarding back pain treatment, please book an appointment with one of our surgeons.