Low back pain can be triggered by a variety of causes, and it is often difficult for physicians to pinpoint the source during a routine examination. Since back pain can be caused or aggravated by many things - including illness, injury, work environment, and lifestyle - a PM&R physician works to address more than just relieving the immediate symptoms. Their treatment extends to the overall functioning of the patient.

Back pain sidelined Corey Atwell, a high school wrestling and football coach in Vernon Hills, Illinois. After several months with no relief, his wife urged him to see a physician. "The pain had really started to interfere with my work. It hurt just trying to throw a football to the players. Then the pain continued at home."

Atwell visited PM&R physician Dennis Keane, MD, who thoroughly evaluated his condition and ordered x-rays and an MRI. Not only did Keane find the source of the problem, doctor and patient were even able to figure out when the back injury occurred - during a wrestling team practice.

With the source of the problem identified, Keane prescribed medication and physical therapy. Within a few weeks, Atwell was already feeling much better. "I used to wake up in pain almost every night, and then go lay on the living room couch for hours. Now I can sleep through the night. You just don't realize how much you use your back until it hurts to use it."

Don't Take that Back Pain Lying Down

Uh oh, there it is. The first twinges of low back pain. What should you do? First, experiment a little to find which positions are more comfortable for you and decrease some of that pain. Contrary to what you may think, don't just rest. Recent studies have shown that prolonged rest may cause certain kinds of low back pain to worsen because your muscles will weaken with lack of movement or exercise. You can limit your activity, but do not stop it completely. Some PM&R physicians have reported seeing more patients for low back pain in the winter, which they sometimes attribute to our tendency to be "couch potatoes" when cold weather sets in. But remember, don't ignore your back pain. If it persists, consult with a PM&R physician.