Highlights Overview: Back pain can be acute, subacute, or chronic, and more commonly occurs in the lower area of the back.
Acute back pain develops suddenly and lasts up to several weeks. Acute pain is the most common type of back pain. Subacute back pain is pain that lasts up to three months. Chronic back pain can begin abruptly or gradually, linger, subside and then come back, but it lasts longer than 3 months. With proper self-care, most acute cases resolve within 4 - 6 weeks. Two-thirds of those patients, however, will experience another episode of back pain within 12 months. Diagnosis: A medical history and a brief physical examination is always necessary for both acute and chronic back pain. The main goal of a physical exam is to try and determine the source of the pain and to detect warning symptoms. Imaging techniques such as x-rays or scans are rarely recommended in the first month unless the health care provider suspects a serious problem such as a tumor, fracture, infection, caud...
Spondylolisthesis (spaun-di-lo-lie-thee-sis) is a mouthful and is a common cause of low back pain (although it can exist anywhere in the spine, the lumbar spine is the most common area affected). The spinal column is a series of building blocks called vertebral bodies stacked on top of one another. Sometimes these blocks do not line up perfectly. This slight separation in the spinal column is called a spondylolisthesis .
"Doc says I have a spondy-something-or-other. Don't ask me what it is; all I know is that it hurts". Steve tries to explain his low back condition to his friend. But, he finds that he cannot explain what he does not understand. Steve has had back pain for a number of years. Every year the pain gets worse and has now become constant. His doctor sent him for x-rays recently. The x-rays showed a spondylolisthesis with disc degeneration at L5/S1. Steve could not understand his doctor's explanation of the condition. So, now he has pain and has confusion.
Sometimes back pain is not strictly related to spinal structures. Sometimes back pain comes from other places, specifically internal organs. In a process called referred pain , internal organs can send pain signals to other parts of the body. For example, when someone is experiencing a heart attack, the left arm may ache. Nothing is wrong with the arm, but this limb hurts because the heart is referring pain to it. The neck, mid-back and low back are also potential targets for referred pain. Here are two examples when "back pain" has nothing to do with spinal problems.
Gallbladder : The gallbladder is a small organ tucked up near the liver that helps with digestion. Within this internal organ problems can arise like a blockage from a stone, an infection, or just an inflamed gallbladder attack. Sometimes the symptoms clearly point to a problem with the gallbladder. These classic symptoms include right upper quadrant abdominal pain just underneath the right chest wall, nausea, gas, ...
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