Learning About Your Condition

Millions of people have neck and back pain. The causes of neck and back pain are multiple, complex and incompletely understood. Most neck and back pain resolves after a few days and is viewed as a normal occurrence of life. However, the neck and back pain resulting from a trivial injury in youth may have lasting consequences later in life.

The first step in treating those experiencing neck or back pain is studying the pain’s origin. If back pain persists for more than a few days, consultation with a physician is recommended. To use the services of a physician most efficiently, first make an outline detailing any past experiences with neck or back pain. Keep a “pain journal” detailing what precipitated the pain; what treatment, if any, was tried together with the result of the treatment; and what type of pain existed. This information will help your physician give you a more rapid and specific diagnosis, as well as a more useful set of treatment options and prognosis for your condition.

Keeping track of symptoms

Below are some ways to categorize the entries in your pain journal.

  • Nature – How would you describe your symptoms? Do you feel pain? Is the pain sharp or dull? Does it seem to stay in one place, or does it travel from your spine to another part of your body? Does your discomfort take the form of numbness or tingling? Do you ever feel weakness in your neck or back? Do you ever experience muscle spasms?
  • Frequency – How often do you feel pain or other symptoms? Every day? Constantly? Sporadically? How long have they been occurring? More or less than three months? Is there a certain time of day that the symptoms are worse? Are any of the symptoms triggered by certain actions or activities?
  • Severity – How bad is the pain? Try to rate it on a scale of one to 10, where 10 is the worst pain you’ve ever experienced. Is the pain so slight that you’re barely aware of it, or is the pain debilitating? Are there any activities that you’re prevented from taking part in because of your symptoms?
  • Location – Try to think about where the pain is localized. Is it in your neck or back? What level of the spine does it occur at? Does it travel? For instance, does it begin in your neck but radiate into your shoulders and arms?

Possible diagnoses

While it is impossible to guess at the cause of pain without a thorough physical examination by a physician, there are a variety of conditions that could be causing your neck and back pain. From a simple muscle strain or ligament sprain to a degenerative spine condition, such as facet disease, degenerative disc disease or spinal stenosis, neck and back discomfort can take many forms. Regardless of the cause, entering into an honest dialogue with your physician is the best place to start for pain relief.