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In a Heartbeat

In a Heartbeat: How you can diagnose, treat back pain

| Monday, Dec. 12, 2016, 11:00 p.m.

It's a very common, often painful, nuisance. About 1 in 10 people have back pain or have experienced it. That may not be comforting, but here are some commonly asked questions about back pain answered by local physical therapist Nuket Curran.

Is my back pain caused by something really bad?

As clinicians, most would approach your diagnosis or plan for treatment with your symptoms to answer this question. If your symptoms are local or staying around the same place, likely not. If your symptoms travel down your leg, for example, there is a possibility that either the nerve root or the disc or both may be to blame. If your back pain is caused by a traumatic accident of some kind, ruling out any fractures or other internal injury may be necessary. Other than that, it is impossible without knowing each patient's individual medical history to answer this question without more information. Rest assured that most of the time it is not insidious.

Will medicine help?

Yes, it can. However, with opiate addiction as high as it currently is, I would caution any patient to approach pain management carefully considering all of the options. Your doctor will help direct you to the most appropriate medication knowing your full medical history and other medications that you currently take. But, if you hurt yourself, the first thing you should do is put ice on the area. Because ice not only decreases pain, it reduces swelling, which is the No. 1 reason for pain initially, and decreases muscle spasm.

Is there anything I can do to help prevent back pain?

Yes. A basic understanding of your own posture is essential. If you have back pain or have had it in the past, your physical therapist likely told you about what your posture indicates. Posture is as much bad habit as it is biomechanics. Thus, increasing your awareness of it and the weak areas that you have is an important part of future prevention.

In the state of Pennsylvania, physical therapists have the ability to obtain a Direct Access license, meaning you can go and see one without any “script” or referral from your doctor. The plus is that you will get in faster and know sooner how to take care of yourself.

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