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Determining the Root Cause of Your Backache

Do you have chronic backaches? Is your back pain affecting your day to day life? Back pains should usually subside with rest, however, at times, you may find yourself with severe or long-standing pain, and this is the time to arrange a doctor’s appointment to determine the root cause of the problem. Let’s have a look at what to expect.

Your physician may start with obtaining a history of the pain. Below are some questions you may be asked:

  • When did the pain start occurring? Was it from performing a specific task?
  • Have you been through such pains before?
  • Did you have an accident or sustain an injury in the past?
  • Describe your lifestyle, such as your exercise routine or your work scope, for example, if lifting heavy loads are part of your daily life.
  • Is the pain constant? You may be asked to rate the severity of your pain.
  • Do you experience cough, fever, infection, stomach issues? If you’re female, they may check if you have any bleeding, cramping or discharge.
  • Are you suffering from any illnesses and are taking medication or supplements for it?
  • Do you feel depressed or anxious; do you sleep well?
  • What aggravates your pain?
  • Have you tried any self-help or home remedies for your pain? Has it helped?


He or she may also perform the following simple tests on you.

  • Touch areas of your back to locate the specific area of discomfort
  • Ask you to sit, stand, walk, move your hands, lift your legs and move your back to check the effects movement has on your back pain
  • Your physician may look for signs of possible nerve damage while you walk on tip-toe, heels and sole. He or she may ask you to lie down flat on your back to lift your leg with and without their help to examine the possibility of such damage. Your physician may look for the loss of sensation in your legs and check your reflexes in the knee and ankle.
  • If deemed necessary, your physician may perform an abdominal, rectal and/or pelvic examination to investigate the underlying root cause. Certain diseases in those areas are likely to cause backache as well. The lowest nerves in the spinal cord serve the rectum and damage to those nerves may lead to an inability to control passing urine and bowel movements!


After the consultation, there are certain tests your doctor may recommend or require if there is further need to investigate the underlying cause for the backache. These may include:

  • Blood and urine tests, which will help determine if the back pain is due to an infection or other systemic problems.
  • X-rays will help to find out if there are fractures or other bone defects. Plain X-rays may not be useful in the first 30 days of back pain unless your doctor suspects significant trauma, if you are older than 50 years of age or have Osteoporosis or steroid overuse.
  • CT scans will help determine if there’s damage to surrounding soft tissue, such as muscles, tendons, nerves, ligaments and the blood vessels.
  • MRIs are very sophisticated and very expensive; your physician may only advise to go through such testing if surgery is required or if the pain has been occurring for over 12 weeks persistently. An MRI uses strong magnets to produce images that look out for more serious issues such as infection of the spinal canal or a tumour.
  • Nerve studies (electromyography, or EMG) would be advised when there is a need to determine the level of defects in the nerve routes. Needles are placed into muscles to monitor the electric activity of nerves to rule out muscle problems.


When you start to experience backaches and pains, be sure give your back a rest! However, if you find that the pain persists and doesn’t decrease even with home remedy and care it is important to remember to consult your physician for help and find out the root causes early on!

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