Sudden Back Pain: Cause for Alarm?

Although a sudden bout of back pain may be upsetting, its rarely something to worry about. In most cases, the pain will resolve on its own.

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You reach for a book on a high shelf, bend down to pick up something from the floor, lift a heavy package of groceries, or twist while playing golf or tennis. Suddenly, you feel pain in your back. Although you dont have any other symptoms, you figure you should have an imaging test "just to be on the safe side." Wrong. According to a study published in the Feb. 1, 2011 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine, diagnostic imaging for acute back pain-X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT) scanning-does not improve outcomes and increases possible complications as well as financial costs. "Most of the time, you dont need imaging, particularly if pain is your only symptom," says Santhosh Thomas, MD, medical director at Cleveland Clinics Center for Spine Health in Westlake and co-director of the Spine Medicine Fellowship.
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