Signs and symptoms of back and neck pain

Dr. Ajay Kothari

A symptom is something that the patient feels and reports, while a sign is something other people, such as the doctor detect. For example, pain may be a symptom while a rash may be a sign. The main symptom of back or neck pain is, as the name suggests, an ache or pain anywhere on the back or neck, and sometimes all the way down to the buttocks and legs or in upper limbs. Some Spine issues can cause pain in other parts of the body, depending on the nerves affected.
In most cases, signs and symptoms clear up on their own within a short period.If any of the following signs or symptoms accompanies a back pain, people should see their doctor:
  • Weight loss
  • Elevated body temperature (fever)
  • Inflammation (swelling) on the back
  • Persistent back pain - lying down or resting does not help
  • Pain down the legs
  • Pain reaches below the knees
  • Inability to walk for long distances
  • A recent injury, blow or trauma to your back
  • Urinary incontinence - you pee unintentionally (even small amounts)
  • Difficulty urinating - passing urine is hard
  • Fecal incontinence - you lose your bowel control (you poo unintentionally)
  • Numbness around the genitals
  • Numbness around the anus
  • Numbness around the buttocks
According to the British National Health Service (NHS), the following groups of people should seek medical advice if they experience back pain:
  • People aged less than 20 and more than 55 years
  • Patients who have been taking steroids for a few months
  • Drug abusers
  • Patients with cancer
  • Patients who have had cancer
  • Patients with depressed immune systems
Diagnosis:
Suspected disk, nerve, tendon, and other problems - X-rays or some other imaging scan, such as a CT (computerized tomography) or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan may be used to get a better view of the state of the soft tissues in the patient's back.
  • X-rays can show the alignment of the bones and whether the patient has arthritis or broken bones. They are not ideal for detecting problems with muscles, the spinal cord, nerves or disks.
  • MRI or CT scans - these are good for revealing herniated disks or problems with tissue, tendons, nerves, ligaments, blood vessels, muscles and bones.
  • Bone scan - a bone scan may be used for detecting bone tumors or compression fractures caused by brittle bones (osteoporosis). The patient receives an injection of a tracer (a radioactive substance) into a vein. The tracer collects in the bones and helps the doctor detect bone problems with the aid of a special camera.
  • Electromyography or EMG - the electrical impulses produced by nerves in response to muscles is measured. This study can confirm nerve compression which may occur with a herniated disk or spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal).
The doctor may also order a blood test if infection is suspected.
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