When Should You See a Doctor About Your Back Pain?

May 7th 2016

There are many causes of back pain, and most are benign. However, when your pain persists a long time, is very severe or is accompanied by other worrisome symptoms, it may be a sign that something more serious is happening. If you are concerned, it is always best to see your doctor.

Trauma

Trauma can take many forms: injury from a car crash, playing sports or simply falling on an icy sidewalk. Regardless of the accident, however, it is important to seek medical attention for the back pain it causes. Traumatic injuries can cause severe damage to your spine as well as the soft tissues in your back.

Nighttime Pain

Most types of back pain get better at night because your back is resting in a straight and supported position. If you notice that your pain remains steady or worsens while lying in bed at night, it is time to see a doctor. This may be a sign that the cause is an infection or more severe injury.

Infection Risk

Some severe infections are hard to detect, but lower back pain can be an early symptom. If you have a compromised immune system, you should see your doctor for any persistent lower back pain. Elderly people and people who use intravenous drugs also have a greater risk of developing infections.

Long-Term Pain

It is normal for back pain to last for a couple of weeks, but it should go away eventually. If your pain does not get better in four to six weeks, it may be time to see a doctor. Even if it is just a normal, low-grade injury, you may need physical therapy or other interventions to help it heal. Your doctor can also help you identify daily habits that may be causing the pain.

Neurological Symptoms

If your back pain is accompanied by unusual neurological symptoms, you should treat it as a medical emergency and see your doctor as soon as possible. A feeling of pins and needles can be a sign of a herniated disc. If you lose your ability to control your bowel or bladder, something may be putting pressure on your nerves. Dragging feet and weakness in one or both arms are also signs that you need to see a doctor.

Fever

Sometimes backaches are caused by minor illnesses, such as the flu. However, they can also be a sign of a kidney infection or another serious problem. If you have a very high fever or severe back pain, see your doctor.

Conclusion

Most back pain is the result of minor issues that typically go away on their own or with minimal at-home treatment. However, some back pain can be a symptom of more serious problems. Determining when to go to the doctor can be a tricky proposition, but some situations should always involve medical attention.

Sources

EverydayHealth.com "Don't wait to see a doctor for severe back pain" http://www.everydayhealth.com/back-pain/back-pain-treatment-doctor.aspx
AdvancingYourHealth.org "8 types of low back pain that mean you should visit your doctor" http://advancingyourhealth.org/orthopedics/2013/05/23/low-back-pain-symptom-treatment/
WebMD.com "When to see your doctor about back pain" http://www.webmd.com/back-pain/living-with-low-back-pain-11/when-to-call-doctor?page=1
MayoClinic.org "When to see a doctor" http://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/back-pain/basics/when-to-see-doctor/sym-20050878

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