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What could be wrong with my back?

By November 30, 2009 - 6:42pm
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I was playing basketball and I spun very quickly. It felt like something popped. The pain is in my lower right back. The muscle feels like it pops in and out or a bone popping in and out. Everytime I bend over or turn to my right the "pop" or whatever it is occurs. The pain and throb is constant but if I lie down or sit for a while it eases. A doctor told me I strained a muscle but I believe that is far from what is wrong. Any suggestions?

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HERWriter Guide

Hi MM - Sorry to hear you've got back pain, that can be excruciating. I'm sure you'd like to find relief as soon as you can.

You stated that a doctor had told you the cause of your pain was a muscle strain. A sprain or strain of muscles or ligaments is the most common cause of back pain. The pain is usually localized in the low back. It gets worse with back motion, sitting, standing, bending, and twisting. If a nerve is irritated, the pain may extend into the buttock or leg on the affected side, and muscle weakness or numbness may be present. It usually gets better with rest, and there is good bowel and bladder control.

Does that sound like what you're experiencing? If not, here's some information on more serious symptoms associated with back pain that may require immediate medical attention :

* Pain that is severe or that has gotten dramatically worse
* Progressive weakness in a leg or foot
* Difficulty walking, standing, or moving
* Numbness in the genital or rectal area
* Loss of bowel or bladder control
* Difficulty with urination
* Fever, unexplained weight loss, or other signs of illness
* Pain that awakes you from sleep at night

If the pain you're experiencing doesn't improve, or if you find that it's worsening with rest (including at night) there may be an indication of a more serious disease. In that case you would need to see your physician again. The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. In particular, the doctor will examine your back, hips, and legs and usually will test for strength, flexibility, sensation, and reflexes.

Other tests may include:

* X-rays —a test that uses radiation to take a picture of structures inside the body, especially bones. This test is usually done if you are over 50 years old or have persistent symptoms for more than a week. This test has its limitations in that it does not show herniated discs or spinal stenosis.
* CT scan —a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of structures inside the body. This test provides a good picture of the vertebrae and the spinal canal. This test is done when there are persistent symptoms.
* MRI scan —a test that uses magnetic waves to make pictures of structures inside the body and shows the intervertebral discs and any abnormality of the discs. This test is done when there are persistent symptoms.
* Bone scan —a test to determine mineralization of the bones
* Blood tests—such as complete blood count (CBC) or sedimentation rate
* Urine test—to check for urinary infection or blood in the urine

Depending on your doctor's finding, various treatments could be needed, including:

Bed Rest

Short-term bed rest is not generally recommended in normal individuals. It is only recommended in those with severe debilitating back pain, and for not more that 1 to 2 days. Movement helps in cases of muscle spasm and to maintain muscle strength.

* Pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), aspirin, or ibuprofen
* Muscle relaxants for muscle spasm—These medications are not used in cases where you need to be alert, such as driving or operating machinery.
* Cortisone injections
* Antidepressants for depression due to chronic pain

Physical Therapy

* Hot or cold packs
* Stretching and strengthening exercises for back and abdominal muscles
* Education about how to deal with back problems
* Massage
* Ultrasound treatments or electrical stimulation

Alternative Medicine

* Activities
o Restrict activities for 3-6 weeks, then resume activities as soon as possible.
* Relaxation training
* Biofeedback
* Acupuncture
* Chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation
o This is often beneficial when done by an experienced therapist.


Only a small number of patients need surgery. It may be needed if nerve problems develop or other treatments fail to provide relief. Common procedures are discectomy , laminectomy , and spinal fusion .

Does this information help you? We wish you the best in recovering from your pain, and invite you to keep us posted on your progress in dealing with this situation.
Take good care,

December 1, 2009 - 6:33pm
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