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Frequently Asked Questions

Click each question below for its answer:

Why am I having back pain? Is it serious?
Low back pain is common and affects more than 80% of people at some point in their lives. The vast majority of low back pain does not indicate a serious spine problem. Some common reasons for back pain include:

  • Injury to back muscles
  • Arthritis
  • Degenerative lumbar discs, which occur in most people over time, but are not necessarily the cause of back pain
Other symptoms may indicate that your back pain represents a more serious problem. For example: leg weakness, leg numbness or tingling, severe leg pain, fevers, or unintentional weight loss.
Would imaging studies (MRI, CT scan, X-ray) be helpful?
Patients frequently judge the quality of their spine care based on whether or not they receive spinal imaging during their visit. However, imaging is not always recommended for back pain. You should only undergo imaging studies if your provider determines they will help improve your outcome.

Imaging is rarely needed unless there is:

  • Concern for fracture
  • Concern for infection
  • Progressive loss of sensation or strength
  • Failure of conservative treatment
What are common treatments for back pain?
There are five primary goals in treating back pain, and we typically recommend the following for achieving each goal:

  • Restore mobility and activity through exercise, physical therapy, and chiropractic care
  • Decrease pain through:
    • Restoring mobility and activity
    • Using ice and/or heat on injured area
    • Taking medications (check with your healthcare provider)
      • Anti-inflammatory medication
      • Muscle relaxers
      • Pain medications (used in cases of severe pain; use should be limited)
  • Prevent further injury through education
    • Learn more about back pain symptoms and when to contact your healthcare provider
    • Lifestyle changes through exercise program, smoking cessation, obesity management, dietary adjustment, etc.
What can I do to help the healing process?
Remember that inactivity and bed rest are not recommended. Staying active is critical. Maintain a moderate amount of movement.

  • Stay active – walking is great
  • Avoid bed rest – moving with a little pain is better than lying in bed
  • Change position frequently
How will this affect my work or exercise?
While your back pain may cause you to modify your level of activity, it’s very important to stay gently active and engaged in your work environment:

  • Stay active and continue working if possible
  • Avoid prolonged sitting or slumping on the couch
  • Get up and move; gentle activity, such as walking, is ideal
  • Stand every 15-20 minutes
How do I prevent future back pain?
Your back is made to move, so don’t sit still. Follow this basic advice:

  • Maintain a moderate exercise regimen: walking, running, gentle stretching and strengthening, aerobics
  • Avoid excessive bending or twisting
  • Give your back frequent breaks when lifting or gardening
  • Avoid prolonged inactivity, take breaks from sitting, and change positions frequently
Learn more about Spine Care at St. Luke's