Items in AFP with MESH term: Low Back Pain
Neuroimaging in Low Back Pain - Article
ABSTRACT: Patients commonly present to family physicians with low back pain. Because the majority of patients fully or partially recover within six weeks, imaging studies are generally not recommended in the first month of acute low back pain. Exceptions include patients with suspected cauda equina syndrome, infection, tumor, fracture, or progressive neurologic deficit. Patients who do not improve within one month should obtain magnetic resonance imaging if a herniated disc is suspected. Computed tomographic scanning is useful in demonstrating osseous structures and their relations to the neural canal, and for assessment of fractures. Bone scans can be used to determine the extent of metastatic disease throughout the skeletal system. All imaging results should be correlated with the patient's signs and symptoms because of the high rate of positive imaging findings in asymptomatic persons.
ABSTRACT: The development of newer classes of antidepressants and second-generation antiepileptic drugs has created unprecedented opportunities for the treatment of chronic pain. These drugs modulate pain transmission by interacting with specific neurotransmitters and ion channels. The actions of antidepressants and antiepileptic drugs differ in neuropathic and non-neuropathic pain, and agents within each medication class have varying degrees of efficacy. Tricyclic antidepressants (e.g., amitriptyline, nortriptyline, desipramine) and certain novel antidepressants (i.e., bupropion, venlafaxine, duloxetine) are effective in the treatment of neuropathic pain. The analgesic effect of these drugs is independent of their antidepressant effect and appears strongest in agents with mixed-receptor or predominantly noradrenergic activity, rather than serotoninergic activity. First-generation antiepileptic drugs (i.e., carbamazepine, phenytoin) and second-generation antiepileptic drugs (e.g., gabapentin, pregabalin) are effective in the treatment of neuropathic pain. The efficacy of antidepressants and antiepileptic drugs in the treatment of neuropathic pain is comparable; tolerability also is comparable, but safety and side effect profiles differ. Tricyclic antidepressants are the most cost-effective agents, but second-generation antiepileptic drugs are associated with fewer safety concerns in elderly patients. Tricyclic antidepressants have documented (although limited) efficacy in the treatment of fibromyalgia and chronic low back pain. Recent evidence suggests that duloxetine and pregabalin have modest efficacy in patients with fibromyalgia.
ABSTRACT: Acute low back pain with or without sciatica usually is self-limited and has no serious underlying pathology. For most patients, reassurance, pain medications, and advice to stay active are sufficient. A more thorough evaluation is required in selected patients with "red flag" findings associated with an increased risk of cauda equina syndrome, cancer, infection, or fracture. These patients also require closer follow-up and, in some cases, urgent referral to a surgeon. In patients with nonspecific mechanical low back pain, imaging can be delayed for at least four to six weeks, which usually allows the pain to improve. There is good evidence for the effectiveness of acetaminophen, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, skeletal muscle relaxants, heat therapy, physical therapy, and advice to stay active. Spinal manipulative therapy may provide short-term benefits compared with sham therapy but not when compared with conventional treatments. Evidence for the benefit of acupuncture is conflicting, with higher-quality trials showing no benefit. Patient education should focus on the natural history of the back pain, its overall good prognosis, and recommendations for effective treatments.
ABSTRACT: As many as 90 percent of persons with occupational nonspecific low back pain are able to return to work in a relatively short period of time. As long as no "red flags" exist, the patient should be encouraged to remain as active as possible, minimize bed rest, use ice or heat compresses, take anti-inflammatory or analgesic medications if desired, participate in home exercises, and return to work as soon as possible. Medical and surgical intervention should be minimized when abnormalities on physical examination are lacking and the patient is having difficulty returning to work after four to six weeks. Personal and occupational psychosocial factors should be addressed thoroughly, and a multidisciplinary rehabilitation program should be strongly considered to prevent delayed recovery and chronic disability. Patient advocacy should include preventing unnecessary and ineffective medical and surgical interventions, prolonged work loss, joblessness, and chronic disability.
ABSTRACT: Lumbar spine stenosis most commonly affects the middle-aged and elderly population. Entrapment of the cauda equina roots by hypertrophy of the osseous and soft tissue structures surrounding the lumbar spinal canal is often associated with incapacitating pain in the back and lower extremities, difficulty ambulating, leg paresthesias and weakness and, in severe cases, bowel or bladder disturbances. The characteristic syndrome associated with lumbar stenosis is termed neurogenic intermittent claudication. This condition must be differentiated from true claudication, which is caused by atherosclerosis of the pelvofemoral vessels. Although many conditions may be associated with lumbar canal stenosis, most cases are idiopathic. Imaging of the lumbar spine performed with computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging often demonstrates narrowing of the lumbar canal with compression of the cauda equina nerve roots by thickened posterior vertebral elements, facet joints, marginal osteophytes or soft tissue structures such as the ligamentum flavum or herniated discs. Treatment for symptomatic lumbar stenosis is usually surgical decompression. Medical treatment alternatives, such as bed rest, pain management and physical therapy, should be reserved for use in debilitated patients or patients whose surgical risk is prohibitive as a result of concomitant medical conditions.
ABSTRACT: Acute low back pain is commonly treated by family physicians. In most cases, only conservative therapy is needed. However, the history and physical examination may elicit warning signals that indicate the need for further work-up and treatment. These "red flags" include a history of trauma, fever, incontinence, unexplained weight loss, a cancer history, long-term steroid use, parenteral drug abuse, and intense localized pain and an inability to get into a comfortable position. Treatment usually consists of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents or acetaminophen and a gradual return to usual activities. Surgery is reserved for use in patients with severe neurologic deficits and, possibly, those with severe symptoms that persist despite adequate conservative treatment.
ABSTRACT: Acute low back pain is commonly encountered in primary care practice but the specific cause often cannot be identified. This ailment has a benign course in 90 percent of patients. Recurrences and functional limitations can be minimized with appropriate conservative management, including medications, physical therapy modalities, exercise and patient education. Radiographs and laboratory tests are generally unnecessary, except in the few patients in whom a serious cause is suspected based on a comprehensive history and physical examination. Serious causes that need to be considered include infection, malignancy, rheumatologic diseases and neurologic disorders. Patients with suspected cauda equina lesions should undergo immediate surgical investigation. Surgical evaluation is also indicated in patients with worsening neurologic deficits or intractable pain that is resistant to conservative treatment. The current recommendation is two or three days of bed rest for patients with acute radiculopathy. The treatment plan should be reassessed in patients who do not return to normal activity within four to six weeks.
Recognizing Spinal Cord Emergencies - Article
ABSTRACT: Physicians who work in primary care settings and emergency departments frequently evaluate patients with neck and back pain. Spinal cord emergencies are uncommon, but injury must be recognized early so that the diagnosis can be quickly confirmed and treatment can be instituted to possibly prevent permanent loss of function. The differential diagnosis includes spinal cord compression secondary to vertebral fracture or space-occupying lesion, spinal infection or abscess, vascular or hematologic damage, severe disc herniation and spinal stenosis. The most important information in the assessment of a possible spinal cord emergency comes from the history and the clinical evaluation. Physicians must look for "red flags"--key historical and clinical clues that increase the likelihood of a serious underlying disorder. In considering diagnostic tests, physicians should apply the principles outlined in an algorithm for the evaluation of low back pain prepared by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (formerly the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research). Computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging can clearly define anatomy, but these studies are costly and have a high false-positive rate. Referral of high-risk patients to a neurologist or spine specialist may be indicated.
When a Patient's Chronic Pain Gets Worse - Curbside Consultation
ABSTRACT: Acute lumbar disk herniations are the most common cause of sciatica. After excluding emergent causes, such as cauda equina syndrome, epidural abscess, fracture, or malignancy, a six-week trial of conservative management is indicated. Patients should be advised to stay active. If symptoms persist after six weeks, or if there is worsening neurologic function, imaging and invasive procedures may be considered. Most patients with lumbar disk herniations improve over six weeks. Because there is no difference in outcomes between surgical and conservative treatment after two years, patient preference and the severity of the disability from the pain should be considered when choosing treatment modalities. If a disk herniation is identified that correlates with physical findings, surgical diskectomy may improve symptoms more quickly than continued conservative management. Epidural steroid injections can also provide short-term relief.