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Diagnosing your back pain

Most people who have low back pain that comes on suddenly and is not too bad can manage their pain on their own. But for severe pain, pain that doesn’t start to improve within a few days, if you are worried, or if you develop any Red flag!red flag symptoms – you should see your doctor.

Your doctor will often be able to make a diagnosis from your symptoms and history. He or she may want to examine you, and may test your

  • Reflexes
  • Muscle strength
  • Walking ability
  • Sensation in your limbs
  • Movement of your spine and legs

For a straightforward and obvious mechanical strain, little or no examination may be needed, but in less obvious cases, your doctor may want to raise your legs, one at a time, to see if this causes discomfort in your leg. If you have a slipped disc, for example, you probably won’t be able to raise your leg very far before experiencing tingling, numbness and/or pain.

Depending on your history, your doctor may also want to do some blood tests to look for inflammation or underlying health problems, although in the majority of cases, blood tests are not needed.