The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Health & Fitness

November 16, 2012

Speaking of Health: Back Pain: Is it inevitable?

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5. Seek professional help when necessary. Although most back pain can be successfully treated at home, there are certain times when you should seek medical help. If the pain is constant or intense and hasn’t been relieved after several weeks of home treatment, you should see your health care provider.

Other red flags that should trigger a trip to the doctor include weakness, pain or numbness in the feet or legs, or incontinence. Those symptoms may indicate the presence of a condition that a health care provider should evaluate. You should also seek medical help if you’ve had a history of trauma to your spine, such as experiencing back pain immediately after a car accident.

You should also seek medical help if you have back pain in an unusual context, with other symptoms that may suggest a more serious, systemic illness. For example, back pain that develops after a prolonged fever or accompanies unexplained weight loss should be investigated by a health care provider.

6. Surgery is rarely needed. There are times when back surgery is appropriate, including major trauma or an acute neurologic problem. However, most people who have back pain due to degenerative causes find that medical therapy – rather than surgery – best meets their needs.

Back pain can affect every area of your life, from sleepless nights to missed days at work. Follow these tips to strengthen and protect your spine, and always ask your health care provider if you have any questions or concerns.

Douglas Chyatte, M.D., is a Mayo Clinic Health System neurosurgeon. He will offer a free public presentation on back pain in the lower level conference center of Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato on Nov. 19 at 7 p.m.

For more information, please go to www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org.

Health & Fitness coverage is supported by Mayo Clinic Health System, preserving the health and well-being of southern Minnesota communities.

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