Posts Tagged ‘back pain prevention’

8 Types of Low Back Pain that Mean You Should Visit Your Doctor

Back pain warning signOver 80% of the population will suffer from lower back pain at some point in their lives. Low back pain is a common complaint in medical offices and is a common issue causing many people to miss work and be unable to participate in daily life activities. Sometimes back pain is due to a pulled or strained muscle and many times will not require a trip to your doctor’s office. Other issues such as fractures, tumors and infections of the spine are very serious and need to be evaluated by a physician promptly.

Patients should see a doctor immediately if they experience low back pain as a result of severe trauma. Patients should also make an appointment with a doctor if low back pain is accompanied by any of the following: fever, loss of bowel or bladder control, serious trauma, numbness, unplanned weight loss, personal history of cancer, back pain that persists more than 6 weeks, or severe night pain.

Fever and Back Pain
Fever combined with back pain can indicate an infection in your kidneys or back. A primary care physician can determine if you need antibiotics to eliminate the infection.

Loss of control of your bowel or bladder and Back Pain
If you have back pain along with new incontinence, you could have a serious back condition causing pressure on the nerves that requires immediate medical care.

Serious Trauma and Back Pain
Trauma such as a car accident or falling down a flight of stairs can cause a fracture in your back. Seek immediate care from your physician or the emergency department.

Numbness or Tingling in Leg and Back Pain
Numbness on tingling in your leg and back pain could indicate nerve irritation or nerve damage. You could have a herniated disc or spinal stenosis. A doctor can prescribe medications, treatments or even surgery to help relieve the pressure on the nerves.

Unexplained weight loss and Back Pain
If you lose a lot of weight without changing your diet or activity level and have back pain, a doctor should order imaging and blood work to check for cancers or hormonal disorders.

History of Cancer and New Back Pain
If you have had cancer, onset of back pain could be a sign that cancer has spread to you spine. You should visit your physician for further evaluation.

Back Pain at Night
Pain in your back that causes you to lose sleep should not be dismissed. This could be a sign of spinal tumors or even cancer.

Back pain that lasts more than 6 weeks
Any pain that lasts more than a month or two should be evaluated more fully.

If you experience significant trauma and back pain, an evaluation in the Emergency Department is indicated. In most other cases, your primary care physician can evaluate your condition and begin treatment. . If he or she is unable to help with your condition he can refer you to a spine specialist.

For more information about low back pain, visit Spine-Health.com. Our spine physicians at Emory regularly contribute content to this website for not only our own patients, but for anyone searching for spine information.

Dr. Susan DreyerAbout Susan Dreyer, MD
Dr. Dreyer is an Associate Professor in the departments of Orthopaedics and Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation at Emory University School of Medicine. Dr. Dreyer specializes in non-operative spine care and focuses on helping patients achieve their best functional level. She has taught many national and international courses on spine care and spinal injections for sciatica and other causes of back and neck problems. She is also active in several professional societies. Dr. Dreyer started practicing at Emory in 1992.

 

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Backpack Awareness: Tips to Help Kids Avoid Backpack Pain & Injuries This School Year

Backpack AwarenessIf you have a child who’s middle-school age or older, you’re very aware of their overloaded backpack. Or maybe you’re in school and suffering from overly weighty textbooks. Whoever carries the load in your family, it’s time for everyone to take the backpack seriously.

Heavy backpacks and book bags cause back, neck, and shoulder pain and injury. It’s a fact. That’s why the American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc. (AOTA) instituted the third Wednesday in September – this year, it’s September 19th – as National School Backpack Awareness Day™.

Consider these facts from AOTA:

  • More than 79 million children in the U.S. carry school backpacks.
  • More than 2,000 backpack-related injuries were treated in ERs, clinics, and doctors’ offices in 2007 alone.
  • About 55% of students carry a backpack that is heavier than the recommended guideline of 10% of the wearer’s body weight.

That’s right. A loaded backpack should never weigh more than 10% of the wearer’s bodyweight (15% at absolute max). That means a 100-pound child’s backpack shouldn’t weigh more than 10 pounds. You’re thinking, “Try telling that to my kid’s teacher!” right? Well, there are some steps you can take to improve your child’s lot. Take a moment and share these back-saving tips:

  1. Choose the right bag. School backpacks are sized according to age group, so be sure to get one that’s not too big. Choose a light-weight bag with wide, well-padded shoulder straps, a padded back, and a waist strap. Avoid leather shoulder straps, as they add unnecessary weight. If you know your load is going to exceed the 10% rule on a regular basis, get a bag with wheels. Don’t risk injury.
  2. Pack your bag properly. Load the heaviest items first, so they’ll be closest to your back, and arrange books and materials so they don’t slide around. Pack only what’s necessary. Do you really need that laptop? If not, leave it out. If you have to, carry a book or two by hand to avoid breaking the 10% rule.
  3. Carry your bag correctly. Always wear your backpack on both shoulders and wear the waist belt, so that the weight is distributed evenly. You may think it looks cool to sling your pack over one shoulder, but you’re putting your back at risk for injury. Adjust the shoulder and waist straps so that the pack fits snugly. The backpack should rest evenly in the middle of the back and should never be more than 4 inches below the waistline (if it’s hitting your bottom, it’s too low).

As the school year gets going, pay attention to your child’s load. If your child is struggling to get the backpack on or off, complains of back pain, or has to lean forward to carry the pack, it’s probably too heavy. And carrying an overloaded backpack shouldn’t have to be a childhood rite of passage.

Do you or your child carry a heavy backpack to class? How do you handle the load? We welcome your questions and feedback in the comments section below.

3 Things You Can Do Now to Prevent Future Back Pain

At some point in our lives, most of us struggle with lower back pain. The good news is it’s never too late to make positive changes in your lifestyle. Preventive steps now can help keep your back healthier down the road.These three things may make the difference between future suffering and living pain free:

1. Get active. Staying active may be the single most important thing you can do to maintain a healthy back. When you don’t get enough exercise, the muscle tone in your lower back can weaken, which may cause the pelvis to tilt too far forward, causing back pain. Regular exercise helps prevent back pain by strengthening your back and abdominal muscles. Just 30 minutes a day of a low-impact exercise like swimming, walking, or stationary cycling can increase muscle strength and flexibility. Yoga is also great for stretching and strengthening muscles and improving posture. If you’re already experiencing back pain, you may want to meet with an Emory physiatrist or physical therapist, who can customize an exercise plan for you.

2. Lose weight. If you’re overweight or obese, chances are you already experience back pain. One of the best things you can do now to ease pain and prevent future back pain is to lose weight. Being overweight or obese affects not only the cardiovascular and endocrine systems but the skeletal system. The skeletal system is made to support a healthy weight. Obesity puts an extra strain on all your weight-bearing joints, such as the hips and knees, but also on the spinal column. The resulting poor posture can cause chronic back pain.

3. Stop smoking. If you’re a smoker, you already know it’s not healthy. But you may not have realized it can contribute to back problems, not just later in life, but now. Many of the chemicals in cigarettes, including nicotine, have been shown to be toxic to spinal disc cells in laboratory experiments. Also, the carbon monoxide in cigarettes decreases the amount of oxygen in the blood. Because spinal discs have no capillaries, they rely on osmosis for oxygen delivery. Without oxygen-rich blood, the discs don’t get the nutrients they need, making them brittle and at risk for rupture.

Do you suffer from back pain? If so, what treatments have worked best for you? We welcome your questions and feedback in the comments section below.