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Pain is the body's way of telling you something is wrong. Your doctor's job is interpreting that message to find the source of the problem. However, with back pain, this isn't always easy — finding the cause of the pain can be difficult. Most doctors will advise you to self-manage the pain to see if it subsides before spending too much time on finding an exact cause. Most incidents of back pain are short-lived and heal on their own.
If you experience any of the more severe warning signs or your pain has not gone away after practicing the recommended management techniques, it may be time for your doctor to conduct a full physical examination. There are several tests that might be used to better understand your pain depending on your symptoms and medical history. These include X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and electromyograms (EMGs).
Talking to your doctor about the nature of the pain is a critical step in the diagnostic and treatment processes. Be an informed patient by asking your doctor these important questions.
Do you think you know the cause of my back pain? Is it possible to find the exact cause?
What kind of tests will you use to find the cause of my back pain? How accurate are the tests?
Are there any red flags I should watch for that could indicate a more serious condition? What are the symptoms of these conditions?
What type of self-management techniques can I use to alleviate some of my back pain? How much physical activity can I handle?
What are some medical options for treating back pain? At what point would you recommend prescription drugs, alternative therapies, or surgery?
Written by: the Healthline Editorial Team
Medically reviewed on: Sep 04, 2014: Jennifer Monti, MD, MPH
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