Back pain is fairly common, but often temporary in nature. When spine-related discomfort is a recurring distraction, common sources are muscle strain, herniated or “slipped” discs, and conditions such as spinal stenosis and degenerative disc disease (age-related wear and tear). However, there are times when a doctor cannot provide an accurate diagnosis, which can make treatment more of a trial and error process. If you haven’t yet received an accurate diagnosis of your back pain, there are a few things you can do.
Get a Second Opinion
The first doctor you see about your back pain is likely to be your primary care physician. While the physician may be knowledgeable about what is going on in your body, he or she may not always have access to the same resources or insights required to diagnose causes of back pain that can be difficult to pinpoint. This is often the case with non-specific low back pain or conditions like sciatica that produce symptoms away from the actual source of discomfort. Getting another opinion from a spine specialist often involves:
- Undergoing advanced tests such as nerve conduction studies, bone scans, or an electromyography to analyze muscle activity
- Determining what’s likely triggering your symptoms or making them worse
- Recommending treatments you may not have considered or tried yet such as electrotherapy (TENS units) and injections directly into the affected area
Modify Your Activities
Some of the activities you normally do may be contributing to your pain. Even exercise that’s too intense may make back pain worse. This doesn’t mean you have to stop exercising or being active. However, you can modify your regular activities to avoid placing excessive stress on your spine and its supporting muscle groups.
Toe-touches, sit-ups, and leg lifts can aggravate your lower back. Instead, try hamstring stretches and wall sits. If you enjoy biking, make sure your handlebars and seat are adjusted to the right height so you’re not excessively bending forward. With swimming, avoid strokes like the butterfly and breaststroke that force your lower spine to arch backward.
Make Positive Diet and Exercise Changes
It can be tempting to avoid physical activity altogether if you have back pain, but some degree of exercise is necessary to strengthen the muscles that support your spine. Weakened muscles, including abdominal muscles in the “front” of your back, can place added stress on your spine and its joints and discs. Fortunately, there are many different forms of exercise that people with back pain can safely do, such as water-based exercises and low-impact aerobic activities like walking. Watching what you eat can also affect the tissues in and around your spine. With your diet, make an effort to:
- Eat vitamin-rich vegetables and bright-colored fruits (calcium and vitamins C, D, K, and all the B vitamins are especially beneficial for spine health)
- Drink plenty of water (follow the eight, 8-ounce glasses of water per day suggestion) to keep your spinal discs and tissues hydrated
- Avoid foods that are processed or excessively sugary
Should your first attempt at finding the source of your back pain not be successful, consider a visit to a Santa Monica spine surgeon. Since it’s possible to have more than one contributing factor to lingering spine pain, make appropriate lifestyle changes with diet and exercise. Be mindful of your emotional stress as well. High levels of anxiety and stress can make muscles tense and exacerbate your back pain.
There are many possible treatments for chronic back pain, from traditional spinal fusion surgery to artificial disc replacement. Santa Monica residents can trust in Dr. Bae at The Spine Institute to diagnose the source of their back pain and help them find effective relief. Call our office today at 310-828-7757 to schedule an in-person evaluation.