Evaluations For Acute and Chronic Back Pain
Relieving Back Pain Begins With An Accurate Diagnosis
More than 80% of Americans suffer from low back pain at some point in their lives. Acute back pain, that is pain that occurs suddenly due to strain, trauma, overuse or mechanical dysfunction, usually subsides with proper rest and appropriate physical therapy within days or weeks.
Acute low back pain is most often caused by tight or strained muscles and ligaments, injured facet joints, osteoarthritis, disc herniation or degeneration, and spinal stenosis. Symptoms can range from abnormal stiffness and backache to spasms and sharp, shooting pain that may travel through the buttocks and hips and down into the legs (sciatica). In less common cases, acute back pain is caused by benign or malignant tumors, infection, fracture, or a rare but serious disease known as cauda equina syndrome, a disorder of the nerve roots at the base of the spine. These less common causes need to be treated quickly in order to prevent serious, often permanent, damage to the lumbar spine.
Discovering the actual cause of back pain is the first step in eliminating a serious cause and developing appropriate treatment. And though most acute back pain will subside on its own, when left untreated acute pain can lead to chronic (recurring) problems.
At FMI, our doctors are experts in leading-edge diagnostic exams and technologies to help isolate and identify the causes of acute and chronic low back pain, including:
- A thorough medical examination – Your FMI doctor will ask you a series of questions to help determine the cause and source of your back pain. He or she will also perform a series of mechanical tests to assess the location and severity of your condition, and help identify or eliminate possible causes that demand immediate treatment to prevent permanent dysfunction.
- X-ray – X-rays show detailed views of the bones and help determine if osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis or fracture is present.
- Magnetic resonance imaging – MRI provides crisp images of both bones and soft tissues, including muscles, ligaments, tendons and nerves/nerve roots. MRI can help your doctor identify inflammation, infection, tumors, abscesses and impinged nerves.
- Computed tomography – CT (referral) provides a three-dimensional view of the spine and related bones. It can offer more detailed imaging than X-ray, and can be especially helpful in diagnosing disc herniation, stenosis, tumors/cysts and other problems.
- Blood and other safe and effective tests that measure inflammation, infection and/or genetic markers
Nonsurgical Interventional Treatment for Chronic Back Pain
When rest, medication, physical therapy and other conservative approaches are not enough to get rid of chronic back pain, your FMI doctor can consult with your doctor to help devise a nonsurgical treatment plan to assist in providing relief. Options include:
- Epidural injection – This method involves injecting an anti-inflammatory steroid medication into space(s) in the spine to decrease swelling and calm nerves.
- Nerve block – Once a particular nerve or collection of nerves has been determined to be a source of pain, your FMI doctor can inject it with a local anesthetic to numb the nerve(s).
- Facet block – Similar to a nerve block, but injections are placed within the joints between the spinal bones.