Severe Back Pain: Can Imaging Help?

April 26, 2022 – 3 min read

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A stock image of someone grabbing their lower back with their hands with color elements added in editing that are used to explain severe back pain

Severe Back Pain: Can Imaging Help?

It’s been days, weeks or months. Day after day, it just won’t stop. It’s severe back pain. It takes root in your lower back, upper back or the base of your spine. It affects your left or right side or both. And it kicks in when you’re walking or standing, sometimes when you’re sitting down or lying down.

How can you find back pain relief? By getting to the bottom of your problem. If you want to do that, you need an accurate diagnosis.

Severe Back Pain Causes and Treatment

Severe back pain can show up for a variety of reasons. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, common causes of back pain include the following:

  • Bone fractures, often due to osteoporosis
  • Degeneration of the spine that can begin to occur in the 30s
  • Degeneration of the discs that causes bones in your spinal column to rub directly against one another
  • Spinal disc slips out of place (called a herniated disc) or tears
  • Trauma to the back or spine

In most cases, relief is possible with nonsurgical treatment. Massage or ice may help. Or you may need physical therapy or medication.

When these don’t work, surgery may be necessary. Thanks to advances in medicine, you have an array of surgical options. Today’s back surgery is more successful than ever, and recovery is often faster than was previously possible.

When Imaging Helps

Getting to the root of severe back pain begins with a physical examination. You’ll also discuss your medical history. For severe back pain, your doctor needs more to pinpoint the problem. Imaging scans offer just that.

However, imaging isn’t always necessary. It’s most helpful when your pain comes with red flags that indicate a serious problem. You may benefit from imaging when you experience the following:

  • Back pain accompanied by loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Back pain caused by a fall or automobile accident
  • Back pain lasting six weeks or longer
  • Back pain leading to loss of motor or sensory skills
  • Back pain possibly caused by spinal infection

Sometimes, back pain is an emergency. Go to ER if you suspect a broken bone. You should also get emergency care when the pain causes you to lose sensation in one or both legs or is accompanied by a fever.

Imaging to the Rescue

Depending on your symptoms, you may benefit from one or more of the following:

  • CT—A CT scan helps identify spinal column damage. It also shows internal bleeding or other injury that may be causing your pain.
  • MRI—Sometimes, the problem isn’t bone-related. It’s caused by muscles, nerves, discs or other soft tissue. In these cases, an MRI scan can help.
  • X-ray—With digital X-ray, all sorts of bone issues are visible. Your doctor may order an X-ray if they suspect curves, deformities, or deteriorated or broken bones.

American Health Imaging can give you a good look at what’s causing your back pain. All you need is a doctor’s order. Find the location nearest you today.