Anyone suffering from chronic back pain can tell you that it is a debilitating issue, one that will wreak havoc on daily living. It can cause a decrease in energy, loss of productive time on the job and complications in having “normal” day-to-day functionality. There are certain cases where seeking medical attention from a physiatrist is the best course of action.
With back pain present, rest is one key to allowing the body time to heal. Finding effective ways to change routine activities can help to reduce stress on the back, joints and muscles that aid in back function.
When to see a physiatrist
Regular sessions of ice, directly applied to the area of pain, can also aid in the rejuvenation efforts. Anti-inflammatories may be recommended in an attempt to reduce impact on the target tissues in hopes of improving health of the surrounding area. If pain does not improve after several weeks of self treatment, consult a physiatrist.
When, and if, the pain begins to radiate into the legs, or when your legs begin exhibiting signs of numbness/weakness, it is time to seek consultation with a physiatrist as well. The doctor will typically recommend a physical exam, and may want to pursue further testing in the form of diagnostic imaging (such as an MRI).
One symptom that is cause for immediate emergency care is the presence of back/leg weakness accompanied by bowel or urinary incontinence.
Many people with back pain ask for the cause of such pain. Two common occurrences are a herniated disc with a pinched nerve (known as radiculopathy), as well as leg pain that could be caused by a muscle pressing on the sciatic nerve (Piriformis syndrome, a neuromuscular disorder that is caused when the piriformis muscle compresses the sciatic nerve). In either case, a physiatrist will be able to diagnose the condition, address treatment options and set a course for relief of the pain.
Under the guidance of a physiatrist, direction can be given to pursue a course of action that will produce corrective results. In many cases, physical therapy is the primary solution, with the goal of helping patients return to a healthy and functional lifestyle. Should medications be needed, it often is recommended that a series of anti-inflammatories be used.
If the problems persist and do not resolve themselves through the course of action outlined above, you may be referred to a pain specialist for nerve blocks (selected nerve root injections to reduce pain) and/or referral to a neurosurgeon for further evaluation and treatment.
Dr. Holmes Marchman and his team at Longstreet Clinic Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation in Gainesville specialize in diagnosing and treating patients who are experiencing musculoskeletal problems such as back pain. To make an appointment, call 770-536-6300.