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"I have extreme back pain that isn't relieved with ibuprofen, ice, or heat. What could it be?"

ZocdocAnswersI have extreme back pain that isn't relieved with ibuprofen, ice, or heat. What could it be?


I am a 25 year old female,. I have been working at a desk job for 2 years and started full-time at graduate school for teaching in May. 2 months ago my lower right back started feeling sore, but nothing seriously unusual. 3 weeks ago I had to go the ER because the pain became severe. I drove home first, but then couldn't get out of my car. Any movement caused my back to go into an intensely painful spasm. I went to the ER, they gave me pain medication and diagnosed me with a strained muscle. I am still feeling moderate pain, but now it feels more like a tightness when I try to stand up from sitting, and can't walk because the tightness turns into a stabbing pain if I move. It takes me up to 5 minutes for it to loosen up to where I can move, but then still hurts. The medications don't help, icing doesn't help, and heat application doesn't help the pain.


This is a good question. Although you already received emergency care for your back, it is very important that you follow up with your primary care doctor since you are still having pain that is affecting your quality of life. Your doctor will ask you many questions about your symptoms and do a full history and physical. Depending on what your doctor discovers, he or she may order imaging, such as an x-ray (if this was not done in the ER) or a CT or MRI. Back pain is one of the most common reasons for visits to the doctor. It can be caused by many things, such as a pulled or strained muscle, a slipped disc, arthritis, or even referred pain from your pancreas. Often times, musculoskeletal pain (like what it sounds like you are describing) needs a course of physical therapy in order for it to improve. Massage therapy can also be very helpful if the problem is muscular in nature. Sometimes the problem stems from poor mechanics or a poor quality mattress. Again, as it sounds like your pain is quite severe, it is very important for you to make an appointment with your primary care doctor as soon as possible.

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