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When is the Best Time to Call the Doctor for Your Back Pain?

Posted on in Pain

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Whether you are a professional athlete or performer, a student athlete or a “weekend warrior,” there are things you can do to help minimize the chances of a serious injury.

At Southeast Orthopedic Specialists, we know that no one wants to go to a doctor if they don’t have to and our Jacksonville orthopedic surgeons don’t take it personally. We don’t either. We also know that with back and other musculoskeletal injuries, it can be particularly difficult for people to determine whether they need to seek medical treatment or if the problem will resolve on its own.

Common Sports-Related Back Injuries

Sports and other activities that require repetitive extension movements can cause stress fractures and other to the structures that support the spine. As sports medicine doctors, we see these in gymnasts, dancers, volleyball players, divers and cheerleaders. These are called spondylolysis or pars fractures. They are characterized by the bony rear portion of the spinal column becomes cracked. A key symptom is lower back pain.

Stress fractures of the spine can be definitively diagnosed by an x-ray or a CAT scan. They can often be treated with rest or perhaps a back brace. Although, more aggressive treatment is required.

Lower back or lumbar sprains and strains are also common. People who try to lift too much weight or lift weights incorrectly can suffer these. Usually these will heal on their own. People can minimize the pain in the meantime with anti-inflammatory medications such as naproxen or ibuprofen, which are available over the counter.

Preventing Back Injuries

Some things you can do to help prevent back discomfort as well as injury include:

  • Stretching and warming up
  • Using the proper techniques
  • Strengthening your core
  • Maintaining your ideal weight

When is it Time to See a Doctor?

The good news is that vast majority of acute back injuries, about 90 percent, eventually heal on their own. However, this can take time. Meanwhile, you may be in constant pain or discomfort. How do you know it’s something that requires medical treatment or if you just need to wait it out while it heals? There are some warning signs that your body will send you that your injury is serious. If any of these occurs, you should see a doctor:

  • The pain continues for more than two months or worsens.
  • Your ability to walk or your balance is impacted by the pain.
  • You experience bowel or bladder changes.
  • The pain causes weakness.
  • The pain radiates to one or both legs.

If the pain is so bad that you have to stay in bed for days on end, you should seek treatment. Inactivity will only further weaken the back’s supporting structures and muscles, causing even more pain.

Sometimes a course of physical therapy is all that’s needed. At Southeast Orthopedic Specialists, our sports injury doctors work closely with our experienced North Florida physical therapists to advance patient outcomes.

If you’re concerned about an injury or experiencing pain, call or contact us online to schedule an appointment with one of our Jacksonville area orthopedic specialists. Even if you don’t have a serious injury, it’s better to get proper treatment so that you’re not living in pain and can get back to living an active, healthy life.

Image Courtesy of: Creative Commons

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