Oh boy -- I woke up this morning with intense back pain. It seems to be better as I move around. I can only sit long enough to type this out and get some advice. How long will I be laid up? What can I do to speed up getting better?
Most experts agree that unless you have had an injury or traumatic event that could have caused a spinal fracture, it's best to keep moving and stay active. Since you say you woke up with this pain, think back to yesterday or the day before to identify any possible causes. If you were involved in some type of trauma, you may need to see your doctor for an examination.
But if there's no known cause and you can move about, then it is best to do so. Should your symptoms persist or get worse, call your doctor and let him or her advise you. If you develop a high fever with skin rashes, nausea and vomiting, or other general symptoms, a visit to your physician may be warranted.
Every patient who ever experienced a sudden onset of neck or back pain wonders the same thing. How long is this going to last? How soon will I be able to get back to work? Despite 1000s of studies addressing neck and back pain, no one has found a way to consistently predict the long-term outcome of spinal pain. Many have tried!
There have been efforts to use patient responses to testing and treatment as a guidepost. For example, some examiners test patients by using repeated motions in one direction (flexion, extension, rotation, sidebending) to see what happens to the pain. If it is consistently present in one direction and lessened in another direction, this is referred to as directional preference. You would be advised to avoid those movements that hurt and stay within the range-of-motion that is pain free.
Another testing concept called centralization has been used to predict response to treatment. Centralization refers to neck pain that goes down the arm or back pain that goes down the leg moving or retreating to a central location in the spine. Some experts think this is a sign that treatment will be successful using exercises and movement that cause centralization to occur.
But the bottom-line is that patients don't all consistently respond the same way to these test measures. So it's been difficult, if not impossible, to come up with a way to predict who will get better, how soon, and/or what specific exercise or movement works best to speed up the process.
Angeliki G. Chorti, MSc, et al. The Prognostic Value of Symptom Responses in the Conservative Management of Spinal Pain. In Spine. November 15, 2009. Vol. 34. No. 24. Pp. 2686-2699.
*Disclaimer:*The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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