3-D Pain Drawings and Seating Pressure Maps: Relationships and Challenges
Two important goals in treating acute low back pain are to return the patient to regular activity as quickly as possible and to do so in a manner that is cost-effective. By following a logical treatment protocol, the clinician is often able to provide the treatment necessary to provide the patient with relief. Referral to an orthopedist or neurosurgeon may be appropriate in only a minority of cases. Thus, after the initial history and physical examination, ruling out (or in) conditions that require urgent or emergent care is essential. These conditions include cauda equina syndrome, circulatory collapse due to expanding abdominal aortic aneurysm, and tumor, infection, and other underlying disorders as a cause of low back pain. Patients without these conditions can be started on conservative therapy-without radiographic or laboratory tests-regardless of the specific diagnosis. Conservative therapy consists of passage of time, controlled physical activity, physical modalities (e.g., cryotherapy or thermotherapy), local injections, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and muscle relaxants. Because low back pain is so common, even the small proportion of patients who do not improve after 6 weeks of conservative therapy represents a sizable number. The location and radiation of pain are used as initial guides to classifying these patients into four groups: those with localized pain, sciatica, anterior thigh pain, or posterior thigh pain. Each follows a different diagnostic path, which will be described herein.