Back pain - when you see the doctor

When you first see your health care provider for back pain, you will be asked about your back pain, including how often and when it occurs and how severe it is. Your provider will try to determine the cause of your pain and whether it is likely to quickly get better with simple measures, such as ice, mild painkillers, physical therapy, and...

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  • Neck pain - Animation

    Neck pain

    Animation

  • Neck pain - Animation

    Your neck is sore. It hurts to move your head. Are you sleeping wrong, is it stress, or a result of climbing that ladder to clean your gutters? Let's get to the bottom of those real "pains in your neck. "When your neck is sore, you may have trouble moving it, especially to one side. Many people describe this as having a stiff neck. If neck pain involves nerves, such as a muscle spasm pinching on a nerve or a slipped disk pressing on a nerve, you may feel numbness, tingling, or weakness in your arm, hand, or elsewhere. A common cause of neck pain is muscle strain or tension. Usually, everyday activities are to blame. Such activities include bending over a desk for hours hunching in place, having poor posture while watching TV or reading, placing your computer monitor too high or too low, sleeping in an uncomfortable position, or twisting and turning your neck in a jarring manner while exercising. Usually, you can treat minor neck pain at home. Simple posture improvements are a great place to start, sitting straight with shoulders held back, driving with arms on armrests, and avoiding carrying shoulder bags. Take breaks when sitting in front of video displays or holding a telephone. For pain, you might try over-the-counter pain relievers such as Advil or Tylenol. And low level laser therapy can be very effective. Physical therapy can be great for treating or preventing the recurrence of neck pain. Slow range of motion exercises, moving your head up and down, side to side from ear to ear, can gently stretch your neck muscles. Applying heat beforehand may help. Good sleep position is especially important with the head aligned with the body. You can try sleeping with a special neck pillow for that. You may want to see a doctor if your symptoms linger for longer than a week of self care, or if you have numbness, tingling, or weakness in your arm or hand, or if your pain was caused by a fall, blow, or injury. If the pain is due to a muscle spasm or a pinched nerve, your doctor may prescribe a muscle relaxant or a tricyclic antidepressant, and possibly a more powerful pain reliever than you were taking at home. You may be referred to a neurologist if he suspects any nerve damage in your neck. You can help prevent neck pain or keep it from coming back in many ways. Use relaxation techniques and regular exercise to prevent unwanted stress and tension to your neck muscles. Learn stretching exercises for your neck and upper body, stretch every day, before and especially after exercise. Use good posture, especially if you sit at a desk all day, keep your back supported, adjust your computer monitor to eye level, so you don't have to continually look up or down. Talk to your doctor if pain persists, you do not want to go through life with a real pain in the neck.

  • Feeling pain - Animation

    Feeling pain

    Animation

  • Feeling pain - Animation

    Ouch!!! Gotcha!Pain, although often uncomfortable, is a protective mechanism that alerts us to potential or actual harm to the body's tissues. Here, the peripheral nervous system sent a pain message to the brain that a bee sting occurred on the nose. Let's take a look at an instant replay to see how this communication works. The pain receptors in the skin detect tissue damage from the bee sting. Then, the peripheral nerves send a pain signal to the brain. The brain analyzes the pain signal. Ouch!!!In turn, the brain delivers a message back to the muscles of the arm to react. Hasta la beesta, babee!As you can tell, it's a very effective system.

  • Heel pain - Animation

    Heel pain

    Animation

  • Heel pain - Animation

    Heel pain can be a common problem. Though the cause is rarely serious, the pain can be severe and sometimes disabling. Heel pain is often the result of overusing your foot. Causes may include, running, especially on hard surfaces like concrete, tightness in your calf, or from Achilles tendonitis (inflammation of that large tendon that connects your calf muscle to your heel), shoes with poor support, sudden inward or outward turning of your heel, or landing hard or awkwardly on your heel after a jump or fall. Problems related to heel pain include bursitis (inflammation of the bursa at the back of the heel), bone spurs in the heel, and plantar fasciitis (swelling of the thick band of tissue on the bottom of your foot). Heel pain is something you can usually treat at home. If you can, try resting as much as possible for at least a week. Apply ice to the painful area twice a day or so, for 10 to 15 minutes. Take acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain and inflammation. If you need to, you can buy a heel cup, felts pads, or shoe inserts to comfort your heel. You should call your doctor if your heel pain does not get better after two or three weeks of home treatment. But also call your doctor if your pain is getting worse, or your pain is sudden and severe, your feet are red or swollen, or you can't put weight on your foot. If you visit the doctor, you may have a foot x-ray. Your treatment will depend on the cause of your heel pain. You may need to see a physical therapist to learn exercises to stretch and strengthen your foot. To prevent future heel pain, we recommend you exercise. Maintaining flexible, strong muscles in your calves, ankles, and feet can help ward off some types of heel pain. And do yourself a favor, trade those sleek high heels in for a comfortable, properly fitting pair of shoes.

  • Knee pain

    Knee pain

    The location of knee pain can help identify the problem. Pain on the front of the knee can be due to bursitis, arthritis, or softening of the patella cartilage as in chondromalacia patella. Pain on the sides of the knee is commonly related to injuries to the collateral ligaments, arthritis, or tears to the meniscuses. Pain in the back of the knee can be caused by arthritis or cysts, known as Baker's cysts. Baker's cysts are an accumulation of joint fluid (synovial fluid) that forms behind the knee. Overall knee pain can be due to bursitis, arthritis, tears in the ligaments, osteoarthritis of the joint, or infection.

    Knee pain

    illustration

  • Neck pain - Animation

    Neck pain

    Animation

  • Neck pain - Animation

    Your neck is sore. It hurts to move your head. Are you sleeping wrong, is it stress, or a result of climbing that ladder to clean your gutters? Let's get to the bottom of those real "pains in your neck. "When your neck is sore, you may have trouble moving it, especially to one side. Many people describe this as having a stiff neck. If neck pain involves nerves, such as a muscle spasm pinching on a nerve or a slipped disk pressing on a nerve, you may feel numbness, tingling, or weakness in your arm, hand, or elsewhere. A common cause of neck pain is muscle strain or tension. Usually, everyday activities are to blame. Such activities include bending over a desk for hours hunching in place, having poor posture while watching TV or reading, placing your computer monitor too high or too low, sleeping in an uncomfortable position, or twisting and turning your neck in a jarring manner while exercising. Usually, you can treat minor neck pain at home. Simple posture improvements are a great place to start, sitting straight with shoulders held back, driving with arms on armrests, and avoiding carrying shoulder bags. Take breaks when sitting in front of video displays or holding a telephone. For pain, you might try over-the-counter pain relievers such as Advil or Tylenol. And low level laser therapy can be very effective. Physical therapy can be great for treating or preventing the recurrence of neck pain. Slow range of motion exercises, moving your head up and down, side to side from ear to ear, can gently stretch your neck muscles. Applying heat beforehand may help. Good sleep position is especially important with the head aligned with the body. You can try sleeping with a special neck pillow for that. You may want to see a doctor if your symptoms linger for longer than a week of self care, or if you have numbness, tingling, or weakness in your arm or hand, or if your pain was caused by a fall, blow, or injury. If the pain is due to a muscle spasm or a pinched nerve, your doctor may prescribe a muscle relaxant or a tricyclic antidepressant, and possibly a more powerful pain reliever than you were taking at home. You may be referred to a neurologist if he suspects any nerve damage in your neck. You can help prevent neck pain or keep it from coming back in many ways. Use relaxation techniques and regular exercise to prevent unwanted stress and tension to your neck muscles. Learn stretching exercises for your neck and upper body, stretch every day, before and especially after exercise. Use good posture, especially if you sit at a desk all day, keep your back supported, adjust your computer monitor to eye level, so you don't have to continually look up or down. Talk to your doctor if pain persists, you do not want to go through life with a real pain in the neck.

  • Feeling pain - Animation

    Feeling pain

    Animation

  • Feeling pain - Animation

    Ouch!!! Gotcha!Pain, although often uncomfortable, is a protective mechanism that alerts us to potential or actual harm to the body's tissues. Here, the peripheral nervous system sent a pain message to the brain that a bee sting occurred on the nose. Let's take a look at an instant replay to see how this communication works. The pain receptors in the skin detect tissue damage from the bee sting. Then, the peripheral nerves send a pain signal to the brain. The brain analyzes the pain signal. Ouch!!!In turn, the brain delivers a message back to the muscles of the arm to react. Hasta la beesta, babee!As you can tell, it's a very effective system.

  • Heel pain - Animation

    Heel pain

    Animation

  • Heel pain - Animation

    Heel pain can be a common problem. Though the cause is rarely serious, the pain can be severe and sometimes disabling. Heel pain is often the result of overusing your foot. Causes may include, running, especially on hard surfaces like concrete, tightness in your calf, or from Achilles tendonitis (inflammation of that large tendon that connects your calf muscle to your heel), shoes with poor support, sudden inward or outward turning of your heel, or landing hard or awkwardly on your heel after a jump or fall. Problems related to heel pain include bursitis (inflammation of the bursa at the back of the heel), bone spurs in the heel, and plantar fasciitis (swelling of the thick band of tissue on the bottom of your foot). Heel pain is something you can usually treat at home. If you can, try resting as much as possible for at least a week. Apply ice to the painful area twice a day or so, for 10 to 15 minutes. Take acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain and inflammation. If you need to, you can buy a heel cup, felts pads, or shoe inserts to comfort your heel. You should call your doctor if your heel pain does not get better after two or three weeks of home treatment. But also call your doctor if your pain is getting worse, or your pain is sudden and severe, your feet are red or swollen, or you can't put weight on your foot. If you visit the doctor, you may have a foot x-ray. Your treatment will depend on the cause of your heel pain. You may need to see a physical therapist to learn exercises to stretch and strengthen your foot. To prevent future heel pain, we recommend you exercise. Maintaining flexible, strong muscles in your calves, ankles, and feet can help ward off some types of heel pain. And do yourself a favor, trade those sleek high heels in for a comfortable, properly fitting pair of shoes.

  • Knee pain

    Knee pain

    The location of knee pain can help identify the problem. Pain on the front of the knee can be due to bursitis, arthritis, or softening of the patella cartilage as in chondromalacia patella. Pain on the sides of the knee is commonly related to injuries to the collateral ligaments, arthritis, or tears to the meniscuses. Pain in the back of the knee can be caused by arthritis or cysts, known as Baker's cysts. Baker's cysts are an accumulation of joint fluid (synovial fluid) that forms behind the knee. Overall knee pain can be due to bursitis, arthritis, tears in the ligaments, osteoarthritis of the joint, or infection.

    Knee pain

    illustration


Review Date: 7/28/2021

Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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