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Swedish Medical Center

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Swedish Belmar ER

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Swedish Southwest ER

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Talking to Your Doctor about Back Pain

If your back pain does not improve, becomes worse after two-to-three days of home care and/or begins to affect your daily living and quality of life, it's important to find an expert spine doctor.

The spine doctors at Denver's Swedish Medical Center may ask you questions, such as:

  • When did your back pain start?
  • Did your back pain begin after an accident, activity or injury?
  • How would you describe your pain? A dull ache, burning or shooting type of pain?
  • Where is your pain? Does the pain move down your leg? How far does the pain move down your leg?
  • Do you have any numbness and/or tingling? Where do you experience the numbness and/or tingling?
  • What makes your pain worse? Laying, sitting, standing, bending, lifting or twisting?
  • What helps your pain?
  • Have you noticed other symptoms like, changes in your bowels or bladder, fever or weight loss?

To evaluate the cause of your back pain your doctor may order tests. Some of these tests are:

  • Electromyogram and Nerve Conduction Studies (EMG/NCS), which measure the electrical impulse along the nerves.
  • Discography, an x-ray to help identify which disks are damaged and if they are the source of the pain.
  • Computed tomography scan (CAT scan), often an ideal test for showing bone detail and the size and shape of the spinal canal.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which will show the spinal cord, nerve roots and surrounding areas.
  • Myelogram, a type of x-ray that can show pressure on the spinal cord due to herniated disks, bone spurs or tumors.
  • X-ray to show spine alignment and the structure of the vertebrae and joints.

Your doctor will evaluate you and determine if your back pain is due to the nerve root being irritated. Your doctor may recommend conservative (non-surgical) treatments, which could include:

  • Limited activity
  • Back exercises
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications
  • Epidural steroid injections
  • Physical therapy
  • Weight reduction
  • Muscle relaxants

If these treatment options do not improve your back pain within two weeks, your doctor may recommend further tests and possible surgery.