There are no set of right or wrong answers to these questions—each person’s individual situation is unique. But through the collective wisdom of spine specialists and others who have dealt with back pain, these six choices seem to be factors that may make your back pain worse or delay getting relief through the right treatment.
Mistake #1: Ignoring your pain for too long
While it’s true that low back pain usually gets better within a few weeks, don’t make the mistake of ignoring it too long. Go to a spine specialist to get a diagnosis and treatment plan. With a correct diagnosis, you can start to map out a recovery plan that may include exercise, massage therapy, or a visit with a physical therapist.
Mistake #2: Relying on your general practitioner for too long
Primary care physicians and general practitioners typically don’t have in-depth training in spine medicine, so it may be harder to get an accurate diagnosis and/or treatment plan. The best way your primary care doctor can help you is by referring you to an excellent spine professional.
Mistake #3: Choosing surgery too quickly
For many, it’s tempting to view spine surgery as a “quick fix.” However, it is typically recommended to try nonsurgical treatment for at least several weeks or months before consulting a spine surgeon (with a few exceptions). While surgery can fix a specific anatomical problem, such as a herniated disc pressing on a nerve, conditions like degenerative disc disease are better managed with a long-term plan for physical therapy and exercise.
Mistake #4: Postponing back surgery for too long
On the other hand, for certain conditions patients tend to do better if they have surgery sooner. For example, when there is arm or leg pain and weakness because a nerve root is pinched, known as radiculopathy, it is often best to take pressure off the nerve root through surgery sooner to avoid developing nerve problems.