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Back Pain: What You Need to Know

Dr. Bernard Rawlins, spine surgeon

Back pain is one of the most common reasons for a visit to the doctor. The pain can vary from a dull, constant ache to a sudden, sharp pain that makes it difficult to move. Back pain can be caused by a sudden injury or can develop slowly over time without an obvious source. Even if the pain originates in the back, it can sometimes radiate down a leg or even cause heaviness or weakness in the legs.

“Lifting the wrong way, repetitive strenuous activities, excess body weight that puts added stress on the back, and even sitting for long periods of time can lead to back pain or make an existing problem worse,” explains Dr. Bernard Rawlins, a spine surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan and at the hospital’s Outpatient Center in Paramus.

Often, people who develop a mild backache will feel relief with rest, over-the-counter pain medication and some ice or heat, according to Dr. Rawlins. He cautions that bed rest for more than a day or two is not recommended. People should try to move as much as possible.

Anyone who experiences serious back pain for more than a couple of days should see a doctor. It is important to get a diagnosis quickly if the pain is excruciating or comes on suddenly, if it was caused by an accident, or if it radiates down an arm or leg creating numbness, tingling or weakness, according to Dr. Rawlins.

For recurring back pain, the correct diagnosis is important. When you see a physician, the doctor should spend a good amount of time with you, take a thorough medical history, and perform a physical exam and order appropriate diagnostic tests, such as x-rays.

Before making an appointment, people may conduct research online, yet this is often counterproductive, as information on the Internet is too general for most people, according to Dr. Rawlins. He warns against doing exercises found online, since the wrong exercises can make back pain worse.

Bernard Rawlins

Dr. Bernard Rawlins is a board-certified orthopedic spine surgeon with a comprehensive practice that spans the entire scope of spinal disorders from cervical (neck) spine to scoliosis in both the adult and pediatric population. With a background in engineering in addition to his medical degree, Dr. Rawlins is highly knowledgeable of the latest advances in surgical implants and techniques. His expertise has led to the development of numerous patents used in complex spine surgery.


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The information provided in this blog by HSS and our affiliated physicians is for general informational and educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual problem you may have. This information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified health care provider who is familiar with the unique facts about your condition and medical history. You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment, or terminating or changing any ongoing treatment. Every post on this blog is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the official position of HSS. Please contact us if we can be helpful in answering any questions or to arrange for a visit or consult.