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August 09, 2021

Suffering from neck or back pain? Avoid these mistakes when self-diagnosing your symptoms

Weakness in the legs and the loss of bowel and bladder control requires immediate medical attention

Adult Health Pain
neck back pain Sasun Bughdaryar/Unsplash

Complete bed rest for more than a day usually isn't advised for back pain. The back muscles respond better to gentle stretches and short periods of activity to increase circulation and promote healing.

Most people get aches and pains, especially in their neck and back as they get older. Often times, the pain will resolve on its own, but in more serious cases, medical attention, including surgery, might be needed to prevent permanent nerve damage.

So how can you know whether it is safe to simply treat your pain at home? 

Spine experts, including those from the Spine Center Network, Johns Hopkins Medicine and Atlantic Spine Center, offer this advice: 

Pain isn't always the best indicator that an injury requires a doctor's visit, according to Spine Center Network. Even the pain from a simple back strain that doesn't require surgery can knock the wind out of people.

Any numbness or weakness is a sign that you should see your doctor as soon as possible. Numbness in the hand or foot indicates that there may be nerve damage that could become permanent if not corrected within a few days. Trying to treat at home for a few weeks only will lead to even more serious complications.

Don't just pop pain pills to get through the day. While the pills will dull the pain enough so that you can still go about your daily activities, it is only masking the symptoms, not treating them, experts say. Dependency on painkillers, like opioids, can lead to a serious drug addiction.

Ask your doctor about the home remedies can help relieve your pain. With back pain, complete bed rest for more than a day usually isn't advised. The back muscles respond better to gentle stretches and short periods of activity to increase circulation and promote healing.

Always listen to what your body is trying to tell you. Call your doctor if the pain seems really intense or unusual in any way.

If it is just a simple strain from a hard workout or from lifting something wrong, your body should respond well to simple rest and anti-inflammatory medications sold over the counter, according to the Atlantic Spine Center. Applying ice to the injured area within the first 72 hours also can help relieve the inflammation and pain. If you are not feeling any better within 72 hours, however, you should be evaluated by a doctor.

Pain that lingers for three months or longer is considered chronic. Johns Hopkins Medicine experts say that in these types of cases, some type of rehabilitation program will most likely be recommended by your doctor to help you manage the pain while returning to your highest level of functioning and independence. Most programs include exercises to restore muscle strength and flexibility as well as pain management techniques.

Spine surgery is a last resort when no other treatments work. As with all surgeries, it comes with its own risk of complications. Patients should discuss all possible risks versus benefits with their doctors first.

Two of the most serious symptoms of neck or back pain are weakness in both legs and the loss of bowel and bladder control, spine experts emphasize. If you experience either one, you should seek medical attention in the first 24 hours to prevent permanent damage. Any traumatic injury also should be evaluated immediately by a doctor to check for possible fractured vertebrae.

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