What’s causing my back and neck pain?

man with back pain while lifting a box

Did you know that back pain affects eight out of 10 people at some point in their lives?

For many of us, back and neck pain is caused by everyday activities like sports injuries, lifting something too heavy or sleeping in an awkward position. This nagging pain can affect you at any age and is the number one reason for missing work or school. It can quickly curb your lifestyle and make even low-key activities miserable.

Because back and neck pain is so common, it’s easy to shrug it off, modify your activities for a few days and wait for the pain to subside. However, if your pain isn’t lessening or if it’s getting worse, it’s time to take action. 

“The best place to start is your primary care doctor,” says Dr. Byron Bailey, a neurosurgeon at Roper St. Francis Healthcare. “Your doctor will recommend conservative treatments like over-the-counter pain medication, physical therapy and steroid injections.”

If your pain is lingering or escalating, your doctor will recommend you see a specialist. The Roper St. Francis Healthcare back and neck pain program is one of the most robust in the region and offers convenient same day appointments to assess your pain. Once our experts identify the cause of your pain, they will connect you to the right level of care to help you get back to your active life.   

Back and neck pain: how to avoid it

The best way to avoid back and neck pain is to stay fit and healthy. Drink plenty of water and move your body for at least 30 minutes a day. The Roper St. Francis Healthcare team recommends taking a daily walk, doing strength-building exercises like yoga and making sure to stretch each morning and night.

“Using good body mechanics is also key to preventing back and neck injuries,” says Dr. Bailey. “Knowing how to lift and bend properly is essential, especially for those patients prone to back or neck problems.”

Roper St. Francis Healthcare offers a one-time physical therapy class to help patients learn how to achieve good body mechanics. The physical therapists demonstrate specific stretches and exercises you can do at home. Patients are referred to this physical therapy class by their doctor.

Back and neck pain: when to seek out immediate help

Back or neck pain that quickly escalates can sometimes be a warning sign of a neurological problem. Symptoms that should be immediately evaluated by a doctor include:

If you or a loved one experience sudden back pain along with chest discomfort and shortness of breath, it might be a heart attack warning sign. Call 911 immediately. According to the American Heart Association, back pain is a lesser-known warning sign of a heart attack, especially in women.

Stroke symptoms can also include numbness and weakness in your arms or legs, as well as sudden difficulty walking or balancing. Remember BE FAST:

Roper St. Francis Neuroscience and Spine Program

To find the underlying cause of your long-term neck and back pain, the Neuroscience and Spine Program at Roper St. Francis Healthcare can help. For more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists, call (843) 402-CARE or schedule online.


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