When Should I See A Doctor for Back Pain

Sometimes, back pain will subside on its own, and sometimes, medical attention is necessary. But how can a person who’s suffering from back pain know when it’s important to see a doctor? When back pain is accompanied by other symptoms, it can be a sign that there is a larger health concern that should be addressed. Understanding these symptoms and the related health concerns can help you determine whether you should seek medical care for your back pain. With a thorough medical evaluation, doctors can determine whether your back pain is an indicator that there is something else wrong, and you can seek treatment for the underlying issue as well as the pain that accompanies it.

If you have back pain and also have a fever, you may have an infection and should seek medical care. While it is common for aches and pains, including back pains, to accompany the flu or other illnesses that can cause feverish temperatures, fever generally indicates a systemic issue and may signal a systemic infection. A medical examination can help your doctor rule out infection, or diagnose and treat an infection if one is present. If you do have an infection, your doctor can prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection, and if an infection is not present, your doctor can recommend other types of pain relief, giving your body time to heal while also helping alleviate your back pain.

Any time you experience any kind of physical trauma and have pain as a result, you should see a doctor. If the trauma is serious, like a car accident or significant fall, or if you are older and have had a more minor trauma, your doctor can evaluate your back pain and determine whether an underlying injury is present. For people over 50, as the bones weaken with age, even a minor fall can cause injury that requires medical attention.

A simple x-ray can help your doctor assess whether any bones are broken or fractured and will help determine the best course of treatment for your pain. If there are no fractures present, your doctor may recommend pain medication and physical therapy; when fractures are present, your doctor will treat these or refer you to an orthopedic specialist who will.

If you experience numbness or a prickly sensation in your back or in your arms, legs, or digits, this could indicate nerve damage and may require medical care. Especially if the numbness or tingling recurs or continues, this could indicate a herniated disc or other spinal complication that can cause pressure on the nerves, and, if left untreated, could cause permanent disability. Doctors may use digital imaging technologies to see if there are any of these underlying issues and will treat your pain accordingly.

While rare, back pain that is accompanied by a loss of proper function in the bladder or bowels may indicate a serious condition called cauda equina syndrome; this is characterized by compression or paralysis of the nerve roots at the bottom of the spinal cord. Symptoms may also include weakness or numbness in the legs, and, when cauda equina syndrome is diagnosed, it requires a surgical procedure to decompress the affected nerves.
Patients who have a history of osteoporosis or cancer, chronic steroid users, and patients who have a suppressed immune system should all seek medical attention if back pain is present, as each of these conditions can cause complications over time. A medical examination can help your doctor rule out systemic causes of back pain and determine the proper course of treatment. Patients with a history of IV drug use should also see a doctor if back pain is present, as this may indicate an infection that could lead to systemic problems if left untreated.

Other symptoms that necessitate medical care when they accompany back pain include something called foot drop, which occurs when a person is walking; if your toes drag on the ground or if it takes disproportionate effort to lift your foot while walking, this can indicate a nerve problem or other underlying issue that may require medical care.

Additionally, if you primarily experience back pain at night, despite feeling fine during the day, there may be a more significant underlying problem and you should see a doctor for a medical evaluation. Unexplained weight loss accompanying back pain may also indicate a serious issue, as can back pain that lasts six weeks or longer; both of these symptoms necessitate medical attention.

Finally, if you are over 70, you may have an increased risk of a systemic problem that can cause back pain, and a visit to a doctor can provide a proper diagnosis and an effective treatment plan. While back pain accompanied by any of these things could be a sign of a greater health problem, a doctor’s visit can rule out larger health concerns and help you achieve relief from your back pain.

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