BPS #064 When should I see my doctor about back pain?

This is Robin from the Back Pain Secrets Podcast, and today’s question is, when should I see a doctor for my back pain? Common question, but before I do that, I’m going to tell you something personal that I can’t really figure out and see if you have the same problems.

I am happily married since 20 years back. I have a wonderful daughter, 13 years old and a son James, 10 years old. What I’m really thinking about, and I see this a lot with my female patients as well, is that they use these shoes. The shoes look good, but they’re killing their feet. It’s really painful.

I have the same problem with my daughter and my wife. They’re walking around in these shoes and it’s painful for them. They get problems with their toes, their heels, their back, okay? I can’t figure this out. It’s just you want to look good, but you want to look good and also be comfortable. At least, that’s the way I feel, my son feels, and the majority of men out there.

I’m giving this tip to all you girls out there, women. Guys or women, please get some shoes that you actually enjoy that are comfortable, that don’t just look good because it really irritates your feet, your back, and your mood sometimes. If you have shoes that are really uncomfortable, that can really affect your mood. So just do that.

Okay, anyway back to today’s story, when should you see a doctor for your back pain? I’m going to tell you a bit of a back story here. I’m going to talk about Tina. Tina is a patient I treated a few years back, and I made up the name so it’s not her real name, of course.

Anyway, she’s 29 years old, and she’s actually Canadian and she moved here to Sweden with her boyfriend that is Swedish. Tina, she didn’t really have too many friends then. Just her boyfriend. She started to get into all kinds of different sports just to try to build up some connections here.

One of the things that she started to do was doing this climbing, climbing walls, rock climbing, but she was doing it indoors. One day, when she was up like a meter and a half, two meters, she fell down or something like that. Her body didn’t really hold on to the rope, so she fell down and injured her back and the pain was first off, local in her lower back. She didn’t really think too much about it, but it started to irritate her more and more, and the big problem was that she had this pain but it also now, more or less, made it impossible for her to do any exercise and that was her way to socialize with people. It was socializing with people.

The desire she had was really to use her body to be able to meet people and interact with them and build up some friendships. She felt like she was doing less and less of that because she couldn’t really use her back, and she was also working as a librarian.

I don’t really know exactly how lonely it is, but she was telling me that working as a librarian, you’re not like interacting too much with colleagues and stuff. You’re walking around putting books back and that also put a lot of strain on her back, bending over, picking up books, and putting it in the shelves.

It was bad. Externally, she was going to work like putting all these books back and that way, irritating her back. She was getting more and more depressed because she couldn’t really do any physical exercise, and she didn’t meet more new people. That was also making her irritated, okay?

Internally, she was struggling. She was thinking about like what is this? My life has been so changed so much since I came to Sweden. I got my back pain now. I can’t really move around too much. I don’t really have any friends here, and she was starting to doubt her relationship with her boyfriend here in Sweden, all because of the pain.

She associated her back pain, all of her problems, with Sweden and the current relationship she was in. That might sound a bit strange, but it’s quite common that when you’re in pain and you’re in pain for many months or for quite a while, you start to associate the surroundings and the people you have around you with that pain.

It can actually rub off. It’s quite dangerous. It can destroy your relationships and it can destroy a lot of stuff. Then she was at work, one of these days, when she hit kind of a wall then. She was doing the book, like just putting a lot of books back on the shelves and all that. Then she had one book that fell off and she bent over and she could actually hear a crack in her back and she just fell down. She was just lying down on the floor there, and she had her cell phone on. She couldn’t get up.

It was horrible. She had radiation down her right leg and all the way, and she was almost screaming in there. So she called someone at work, a friend in a different department. They came down and they got her up, and they went to the emergency room with her, to see if she could become better or give her some pills or whatever.

She came to the emergency room, and in the emergency room, she met just like an ordinary doctor, not a specialist, not a back specialist. This doctor just gave her a few pills and said you know, just go home. You just sprained your back. It’s not too bad. But she had the radiation down all the way to her foot.

You could definitely say that the disc was definitely irritated, but this doctor didn’t really acknowledge that at all. She went home and she started to take these pills and she didn’t really have a plan, whatsoever.

She thought, you know, she visited the doctor. The doctor told her to take the pills and just keep on going. The problem was that after the pills have been gone and that’s been for a month, she’d been taking the pills, and no real action at all.

She had the radiation, she had the pain, she couldn’t sleep, work was horrible and she was cranky. She started to get more and more depressed around everything. She just kept this up.

The worst thing is that she kept it up for six months. She visited different doctors, her family physician, and they all just gave her pills and just continued to work and they never really did any scans or anything on her.

The conflict was that she wanted to go out, work, and be happy and enjoy her life but the instructions she was getting from all these doctors, the regular doctors was that it didn’t help. It actually made it worse.

She started to get more and more pain constantly and it was just horrible. This was when she came to my place. A friend of her had booked an appointment to her. She came to me and it was quite obvious that the disc was really irritated in her back.

You could actually see her right leg now was not as thick as the left leg. It was like 20% to 30% less thickness in the leg. That’s quite common when you have a herniated disc that’s pressing on the nerves. That you get less signals going out to the leg’s muscles. That can really irritate the leg’s muscles so you don’t have a thick leg anymore. You’re losing muscle.

When I saw this, I sent her directly for an MRI scan, and it came back that she had a herniated disc on level L4-L5. That’s very common and we also got her a few weeks’ sick leave. We started to do some traction with her. She got some acupuncture. She started to do some of these core stability exercises, and we got her to walk like a half an hour in the morning, half an hour in the evening, and she had the correct pain medication.

I also got her to see an orthopedic surgeon. I mean, most times and people, I mean, an uncommon – not having surgery is always the best option if it’s possible, but sometimes, you really need to have surgery. Why I sent her to be checked out also by a surgeon was that she started to have these problems when she had a burning sensation between her legs, in her thighs. She had problems holding in her like when she went to the bathroom quite often. Maybe 10 or 12 times a day and that’s way too much. She used to go maybe two or three times.

That was a typical indication that it was pressing on her nerves, in the lower back, and it can be quite, quite serious if you don’t check that out. She went and had that checked out and she came back. The orthopedic surgeon actually told her, she needed to operate. Quite acute.

This stuff that had happened was not looking good at all. Tina was very frightened of course, and every time you’re going to have surgery, you’re going to feel — you’re going to be scared. You don’t want to be put under the knife, but anyway, we decided that she’s going to have the surgery.

She went for the surgery and like a week and a half, two weeks back, she came back to me and she a totally a new person. She was walking just regularly. She didn’t have any pain, and she could also like do most activities, bend over to the side, without pain.

She was so, so very, very happy. The transformation she went through and the stuff that you can learn from this story is that I mean, if you have a really simple — or if you get back pain, if you fall down or something and you have local back pain, and it’s just recent, then you go to your family physician or regular doctor.

But if you’ve had back pain for 3-4 weeks and especially if you have radiation down your legs, down your arm you know, and the pain is really horrible, then you should definitely put in the extra time and find a back pain specialist or back pain doctor that can check you out, that can give you the right advice and the right treatment for it.

Or else, this suffering could just go on forever, and it’s horrible. It’s horrible. I hope you can take something with that and this has been valuable for you guys.

If you like these episodes, please continue watching. You will get tips around that but if you want to speed up the process guys, if you want to like — healing back pain or reducing back pain is not about doing a million different things. It’s about doing a few key things, the most important things.

If you want to speed up the process, visit backpainsecrets.com, okay, and I will help you out. Take care. I love. I’ll talk to you tomorrow. Guys, remember, you’re just one step away from healing your back pain. Bye-bye.

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Robin BackPainExpert

Physiotherapists & Back Pain Expert

Twenty years ago I was lucky to survive a serious hockey injury. In a sport where big men zoomaround on hard ice and solid wood sticks are slung furiously, a difficult back injury is what every player fears.
It took a long time for me to climb back to a normal life. But when I did, I was determined to spend the rest of his life helping back pain victims everywhere.
As a physiotherapist and back pain expert I have treated thousands of patients over 20 years, built a respected back pain clinic, created the site BackPainSecrets.Com and authored the book “Back Pain Secrets.”
Learn more about me here.