You should consult with your doctor for any back pain significant enough to limit activity, any back pain that lasts more than a few days, or any back pain associated with numbness or weakness, loss of bladder or bowel control, fever, or abdominal or chest pain. The doctor may suggest an urgent office evaluation or may advise you to go to the hospital's emergency department for evaluation.
Any injury that may suggest more significant back or neck problems, such as a fall from a height or a direct blow to the spine, should be evaluated at the hospital's emergency department. Consider calling 911 for an ambulance. Medical teams can immobilize the spine and protect against further damage.
You should also seek emergency evaluation if the pain or symptoms are severe enough to prevent you from walking, are associated with severe numbness or weakness of any extremity, are associated with loss of bowel or bladder control, or are associated symptoms not readily explained by the spine problem (such as fever, abdominal pain , or chest pain).
Minor cases can be handled at home in consultation with your doctor. Treatment will likely include application of hot or cold packs, limited activity (although strict bed rest is not generally advised), and basic pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. As your condition improves, specific back stretching or strengthening exercise may be suggested.
Follow your instructions carefully and do not attempt to skip steps in your care or overexert yourself too soon. Your initial treatment plan may need to be extended or modified based on your response to the treatment.
Regular exercise can decrease hardening and early breakdown of the disks, as well as improve the overall strength and tone of the supporting muscles and structures.
Use proper techniques while performing strenuous exercise and strenuous work, including lifting. Lifting should be done with the legs performing the work, not the back. The worst possible combination of activities for your spine is heavy lifting while bending and twisting at the same time.
Use of a spine brace during heavy lifting may be advised. Its proper use is to keep your back straight and encourage proper lifting technique. It should not be used as a substitute for proper technique or to encourage you to exceed safe lifting limits.
The vast majority of disk problems improve without any surgery. Most people are able to return to normal function (with emphasis on protecting the spine from recurrent or new injury) within a short time. It is not unusual for similar symptoms to return in the future, however.
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