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HSS Doctor Explains What You Need to Know About Back Pain

Dr. Rawlins of HSS.
Dr. Rawlins of HSS. Photo Credit: HSS

PARAMUS, N.J. -- 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. 

"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.

Dr. Bernard Rawlins is an orthopedic spine surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery specializing in spinal disorders from the cervical spine to scoliosis in both adults and children. He practices at both the HSS Outpatient Center in Paramus and the hospital’s main campus in New York.

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