Back Pain: Diagnostic and Treatment

Back pain is a common medical problem and the leading reason most people visit physicians. This condition contributes to lost work time and limits physical activities that are important for living a quality life. Dr. William I Yancey labels it as the leading cause of disability. However, it’s not only a disorder in adults, but it also affects children and the elderly. Furthermore, the symptoms recur in your lifetime.

As you age, the causes include degenerative disorders like spinal stenosis. You could be having acute, subacute, or chronic back pain. The pain can last from a few days to months or a year. If untreated, your acute back pain can turn into chronic back pain. Most administered treatments relieve the symptoms of back pain.

Book an appointment with a spine specialist if you experience these situations:

  • Nausea or fever
  • Accident, trauma, or injury
  • Lose bowel control
  • Your pain is interrupting your sleep
  • Tingling sensation, numbness, weakness in your arms or legs
  • Severe pain that doesn’t go away

The causes can be diverse as spinal conditions can also be congenital or acquired. A mechanical type of back pain is one that involves spinal structures and is triggered by spinal movements like facet joints, muscle strains, vertebrae, intervertebral discs, soft tissues, muscles, and ligaments.

The pain can be organic, which means it arises due to a disease like spinal cancer, kidney stones, fibromyalgia, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, abdominal aorta aneurysm, etc. Some back pains are idiopathic meaning their cause is unknown.


The doctor examines your back while assessing your ability to sit, walk, stand, and lift your legs. The specialist rates your pain (0-10) and inquiries about your functioning with that pain. The assessment determines the cause of the pain and the movements you can make before you experience the pain that is forcing you to stop. The Doctor also determines if there are any muscle spasms and rules out severe causes of back pain.

The specialist can run tests to determine if there are other causes. The tests include:

  • X-ray – reveals if you have arthritis or broken bones. 
  • Blood tests – determines infections if there is a blood condition causing back pain.
  • CT and MRI scans – reveals images of herniated discs or other bone, muscle, tendon, tissue, ligament, blood vessel, or nerve problems. 
  • Nerve studies – measure the electrical impulse and your muscle’s response. It can confirm nerve comprehension due to a narrow spinal canal or herniated discs.
  • Bone scan – scans for the presence of compression fractures or bone tumors.


Acute back pain can get better with treatment after a few days. However, chronic back pain is complex and takes time as the pain can be severe and persistent. You can relieve acute back pain using over-the-counter drugs and using heat. Try doing light activities like walking. See a spine specialist for suggestions for stronger medications or therapies.

The doctor can recommend medications such as:

  • Muscle relaxants
  • Topical pain relievers
  • Narcotics
  • Antidepressants
  • Injections

Exercise and physical therapy like electrical stimulation, use of heat, and muscle-release techniques also reduce pain. Exercises increase your flexibility and strengthen your abdominal and back muscles while improving your posture.   Surgery is advised if you have unrelenting pain.


You need a proper diagnosis of your back pain to know the right treatments.  Diagnosis helps you know if you have acute, subacute, or chronic back pain as well as the causes. Surgery is only reserved for people experiencing pain due to structural problems like spinal stenosis or herniated discs. Consult your spine specialist for appropriate diagnosis and treatment.