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Low-back pain is usually classified as ‘non-specific' or ‘specific'

 

In most people with low back pain (7 out of 10 people), the symptoms are classified as ‘non-specific'. This means that the specific cause of the pain cannot be identified. In ‘specific' low-back pain, a physical problem has been diagnosed that is causing the pain, such as disc prolapse or herniated disc, infection, inflammatory arthritis, tumour, osteoporosis or fracture.
Often, depending on how long the low-back pain lasts, it is classified as:
Acute, if pain lasts 6 weeks or less,

Subacute, if pain lasts 6 weeks to 3 months or
Chronic if pain lasts more than 3 months.

What will my Doctor do?
A. The doctor will ask you questions about your back pain, such as:

Where you feel the pain
Whether your pain goes down your leg and past your knee
When you started to feel the pain
If you hurt your back, how you hurt yourself
How bad is your pain (your Doctor may ask you to rate your pain on a scale from 0 (no pain) to 10 (worst pain))
If you have had back pain before
If you have had an operation (i.e. if you have had an operation on your back in the past)
The doctor will also examine your back and legs. During the examination, your doctor will:

Feel for soreness along your spine
Test the reflexes in your legs and feet
Test for numbness by gently pricking your skin with a pin
Have you raise and lower your legs
Observe different back movements
Both your own explanation about your pain and the physical examination are very important because they will help your doctor detect any "red flags" (see below).

What are "red flags"?

A. This is the term doctors use to describe signs and symptoms that might be noticed during the patient interview and physical examination. Such "red flags" are a clue that the reasons for your back pain might be more complex (such as, broken bones, tumour, infection, osteoporosis, or inflammatory arthritis). If your doctor does suspect this, he or she will explain the findings and discuss whether you need further testing and treatment.

Some questions your doctor may ask to identify any "red flags" are:


If you or your family members have had cancer
If you have recently lost weight for no known reason (a loss of more than 10 pounds in 6 months)
If you use intravenous drugs (drugs injected with a needle in a vein)
If you have had a fever of 38ºC or 100.4ºF, for more than 2 days (48 hours)
If you have had bladder infections, or other problems with your bladder (e.g. having problems peeing or controlling your bladder)
If you have had loss of bowel control
If you have pain that does not stop at night or gets worse when you rest If you have pain with numbness below the knee or weakness in your legs
If you have had morning stiffness for more than one hour
If your back pain resulted from some traumatic incident (i.e. sustained a fall)
If you have numbness around your lower spine in your buttocks, or bum, and inner thighs (which is called saddle anesthesia)
Q. What happens if the cause of your low-back pain is not serious?
A. If the cause of your back pain is not serious, your doctor will suggest treatment and activities that can help you control your pain.


Q. Will you need to see a specialist or have tests?
Most people with low-back pain do not need to see a specialist or have special tests or x-rays. These are some of the reasons your doctor might send you to see a specialist or for x-rays:


If you have pain that limits your activity for more than 1 month
If your low-back pain has lasted more than 6 weeks
If your doctor thinks your low-back pain is caused by a serious problem


http://www.guidelinesforhealth.com/lower_back_pain/default.asp?active_page_id=19
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