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Back pain is one of the most common complaints that urgent care providers hear. Whether you pulled something at the gym, overdid it on yard work, or simply have back pain from chronic conditions, you want to get it treated as soon as possible. You should immediately seek medical attention if the pain is accompanied by red-flag symptoms like fever, urinary incontinence, or numbness/tingling in the legs.

Continue reading this article to learn what to expect from an urgent care visit for back pain.

Understanding Back Pain

Back pain is one of the most common medical issues. It can be caused by a wide range of problems, including injuries such as sprains or strains, and it can also be the result of conditions such as arthritis and anxiety or lifestyle factors like being overweight.

While back pain can be uncomfortable, it is usually not serious and will improve if you take steps to manage it. But if your back pain is severe and is accompanied by other symptoms, you may need urgent care.

When to Seek Urgent Care for Back Pain

Back pain is a common complaint for many people, but when you experience severe or persistent back pain, it may be time to visit a medical clinic (or have one visit you). Whether you pulled something at the gym, overdid it on a weekend project or simply woke up stiff and sore, there are times when it is important to seek medical attention right away for your own health.

If your back pain is the result of an injury, urgent care can be a great place to go for help. While most back injuries can heal on their own, those caused by an accident often require medical attention right away to avoid severe, long-term complications. In most cases, back injuries can be addressed at urgent care without the need for an ER visit, where long waits and high costs can add to your stress and frustration.

Assessment and Evaluation at Urgent Care

When you visit an urgent care center for back pain, you will typically be seen by a healthcare professional who will start by taking a complete medical history and performing a physical examination. They will also ask about your symptoms, such as when they first began and how long you have been experiencing them.

During the physical examination, the healthcare provider will look at the shape of your spine and check for anything that can indicate serious injury. They will take note of red flags such as a rash (which may indicate herpes zoster or shingles), muscle tightness and tenderness, numbness or tingling, severe headache or abdominal pain, as well as test your range of motion and nerve function. 

Diagnostic Tests and Imaging

Depending on the severity of your back pain, practitioners can also perform diagnostic tests, such as X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, straight leg raise tests, and more, to help identify spinal fractures, strained muscles, and herniated discs. They might order blood and urine tests to check for any underlying health issues that could be contributing to your back pain, such as kidney infections or an abdominal aortic aneurysm.

X-rays of your C-spine and lumbar spine provide doctors and physicians with images of your entire musculoskeletal system, which can help them identify the source of your pain. Medical professionals can then recommend the best course of treatment to relieve your back pain and help you recover. Whether that involves taking painkillers, resting your back, attending physical therapy, or using an adjustable bed to keep your spine in alignment, the urgent care team can help you get relief quickly and easily.

Treatment Options at Urgent Care

If your back pain is not accompanied by other red-flag symptoms, urgent care may be your best option for treatment. These centers treat injuries and illnesses that are not considered to be life-threatening, and they typically offer more flexible hours than a doctor’s office. They will then create a treatment plan for your back pain, including medications to reduce inflammation and relax muscles and physical therapy to strengthen the spine and improve flexibility. 

If the back pain isn’t severe, you can manage it on your own with self-care, such as resting and using heat or ice therapy to alleviate the pain. Medical professionals can advise you on lifestyle changes that can help to prevent back pain, such as maintaining a healthy weight and staying active. But if the pain becomes unbearable or you’re experiencing symptoms like numbness in the legs, it’s important to get a referral to see an orthopedic specialist or visit urgent care for immediate treatment.

Urgent care providers are trained to evaluate your orthopedic symptoms and provide hands-on care. They’ll prescribe any necessary medications for immediate relief and provide a care plan to address the underlying cause of your pain.

Medications for Back Pain Relief

Medications can help reduce the pain from back injuries and conditions. Common medications include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or naproxen, which can be bought over the counter or through your primary care physician. If the pain is severe, your doctor may prescribe narcotics. Topical pain relievers like creams, gels, or patches are also helpful.

Usually, the first course of treatment at urgent care is NSAIDs to help alleviate pain and swelling. Depending on the severity of your pain, your urgent care provider may prescribe you a stronger prescription muscle relaxant for additional relief. 

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Self-Care Tips for Managing Back Pain

The back is a complex structure of bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons. It can be injured by lifting a heavy object, from twisting or moving the body too quickly, and by a variety of medical conditions and diseases. Regardless of the cause, severe or persistent back pain can significantly interfere with daily activities and increase stress levels.

If you are experiencing sudden and severe back pain, seeking medical attention as soon as possible is a good idea. If you’re unable to see your primary care physician immediately for a back injury, you can take several self-care measures to manage your pain. 

  • Tip #1 – Maintain Good Posture: Poor posture can put a strain on your back. Pay attention to how you sit, stand, and walk. Use ergonomic chairs and maintain a straight posture to reduce back stress.
  • Tip #2 – Exercise Regularly: Gentle, low-impact exercises can strengthen the muscles that support your back. Activities like swimming, walking, and yoga can improve flexibility and reduce pain.
  • Tip #3 – Stretching: Stretching can help alleviate back pain by increasing flexibility and reducing tension in muscles. Focus on stretches that target the back, hamstrings, and hip flexors.
  • Tip #4 – Hot and Cold Therapy: Applying heat or cold packs to the affected area can help relieve pain and reduce inflammation. Use a hot pack for 15-20 minutes or a cold pack for 10-15 minutes at a time.
  • Tip #5 – Maintain a Healthy Weight: Carrying excess weight can put additional strain on your back. Maintaining a healthy weight through proper diet and exercise can reduce the burden on your spine.

Remember that it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional if you have persistent or severe back pain, as it could be a sign of a more serious underlying condition. These tips can be helpful for mild to moderate back pain, but individual needs may vary, so it’s always best to seek personalized advice from a medical expert.

Benefits of Seeking Urgent Care for Back Pain

Seeking urgent care for back pain can offer several benefits, especially when you’re experiencing severe or sudden pain. Here are five benefits of seeking urgent care for back pain:

  • Prompt Evaluation: Urgent care provides timely evaluation and treatment for back pain. You won’t have to wait for an appointment with a primary care physician or deal with long emergency room wait times, ensuring that you receive care when you need it most.
  • Specialized Care: Urgent care facilities often have healthcare professionals trained in evaluating and treating a wide range of medical issues, including musculoskeletal problems like back pain. They can provide specialized care and diagnostics.
  • Pain Management: Urgent care providers can offer various pain management options, including medications and injections, to help alleviate your back pain quickly and effectively.
  • Imaging and Diagnostics: If necessary, urgent care centers can perform X-rays, MRIs, or other diagnostic tests to identify the underlying cause of your back pain. This can lead to a more accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.
  • Convenience: Urgent care centers typically have extended hours, including evenings and weekends, making them accessible when other healthcare providers may be closed. This convenience ensures you can seek help for your back pain outside regular office hours.

While urgent care can be a valuable option for addressing back pain, using your judgment is essential. If you experience severe symptoms such as numbness, weakness, loss of bladder or bowel control, or if your pain is the result of a traumatic injury, it’s advisable to go to the nearest emergency room for immediate evaluation. Urgent care can be an effective choice for back injuries like herniated discs and spondylolisthesis, as well as other conditions that cause back pain, like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. In these cases, urgent care can recommend a treatment plan and provide prescriptions for pain relief.

Medical House Calls Provides In-Home Treatment for Back Pain 

Back pain is one of the most common reasons people visit doctors, and it can feel like a medical emergency. But the truth is that most cases of back pain don’t require a trip to the emergency room. 

Urgent care is a great option for people who want to get medical attention for their back pain without waiting in long lines at the emergency room. In addition to offering short wait times and fast diagnoses, urgent care centers also have the x-ray equipment necessary for back injuries like sprains and strains.

What’s better than urgent care? At-home urgent care! That’s right, Medical House Calls brings the urgent care clinic to your doorstep and provides the necessary treatment without you ever having to leave your home. To make a same-day or next-day appointment with one of our licensed medical professionals for your back pain, Call or text Medical House Calls today!