Relief for low back pain

Local News

Dr. Jeff Harp of Highland Family Medicine discussed relief options for people who suffer acute low back pain Thursday during News 8 at Sunrise.

This is the companion segment to a conversation with Dr. Harp which aired back in February.

“Acute low back pain means back pain that has been present for less than six weeks,” explained Dr. Harp. “And low back means kind of going from the bottom of our rib cage here on me down to our rear end. So pain in that area that has been present for less than six weeks.”

Dr. Harp said your health care clinician will consider your symptoms carefully. “Many people think that if they have back pain they need an X-ray. But actually you’re likely not to have an X-ray ordered because, of people that have low back pain, only about 10 percent of those people, or less, need to have some sort of X-ray. And those are people who have special signs and symptoms that make healthcare clinicians worried about the cause of the back pain. So these are called red flag signs and symptoms in doctor lingo, and they’re things like a high risk of cancer. If somebody has a high risk of having cancer they might need to have an X-ray and some blood tests, or signs that the spinal cord is compressed, or that there’s an infection around the spine. In that case often times people want, or a healthcare clinician will want to do an MRI right away rather than waiting.”

If something is broken, or herniated, or otherwise injured, then your healthcare clinician will talk to you about what is showing up and make a recommendation said Dr. Harp, adding it’s “Usually a referral to some sort of person who would take the next step of treatment, like a neurosurgeon, or an orthopedist, or somebody who would get involved and decide if this is something that needs to have surgical intervention.”

If there’s a normal x-ray image your doctor will recommend staying physically active. “Don’t push yourself, but don’t just lay around,” said Dr. Harp. “Take things like ibuprofen, and basically continue on with your life, perhaps doing some gentle exercise to strengthen your back. Generally people get back to their baseline in 6 to 8 weeks. So if they’re patient, do those sort of things, and after six to eight weeks they’re back to their normal self.”

Dr. Harp added, “There’s good evidence that people who are overweight, who smoke and have a diagnosis of depression are more likely to have relapse in their back pain. So keeping ourselves healthy both physically and emotionally, keeping our weight in control, keeping our core muscles strong., all of those will prevent us from having back pain again.”

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