Back pain? Why you shouldn’t wait to see a doctor
Back pain is fairly common. In fact, according to the National Institute of Health, 80 percent of the American population will experience it at some point. Back pain is also the most common cause of job-related disability and a leading contributor to missed work.
Muscle sprains and strains-common causes of back problems-are often the result of poor posture, improper lifting, and even a lack of physical activity. Thankfully, most episodes of back discomfort improve relatively quickly, without treatment or residual loss of function. Over-the-counter medications can help reduce pain, as can applying cold or heat to the affected area.
However, sometimes back pain indicates more serious going on, but how do you know? The Mayo Clinic offers these tips for when you should see a doctor.
1. Unrelenting pain: Everyone's pain tolerance is different, and sometimes back pain becomes such a part of daily life that people merely figure out how to live around it (or in spite of it). If the pain has been consistent for two weeks, it's definitely time to visit a spine specialist. Conditions such as multiple sclerosis, osteoarthritis, and fibromyalgia can cause chronic back pain that should be addressed by a physician.
2. Pain after a traumatic event: Back pain following a traumatic event-a car accident, bad fall or sports injury-definitely warrants a trip to see a physician or to the emergency room. Don't brush it off. From vertebral fractures to slipped discs or spinal cord lacerations, a traumatic event can cause damage to the spine, even if you are able to walk immediately after it happens. When left undiagnosed and untreated, spinal injuries can become bigger problems later.
3. Incontinence: Back pain connected to a loss of bladder or bowel function is a serious situation requiring immediate medical attention. Certain conditions cause compression of nerves in the spine that can affect the organs. This doesn't have to be sudden-it can happen over time. When spinal nerves are involved, it may include numbness or weakness in the legs. If you've seen a decline in bladder or bowel function and are also experiencing back pain, it's extremely important to see a doctor.
4. Tingling and/or limb numbness: Some characterize it as "pins and needles," while others have a complete loss of feeling. Regardless of how it presents, symptoms such as these typically signal an issue with the nerves in the affected area of the back. A number of conditions can cause numbness and tingling, including sciatica, spinal stenosis or a herniated disc. All should be properly diagnosed and treated by a spine expert, as prolonged irritation of nerves can lead to permanent damage and even disability.
5. Fever: This isn't the typical fever from a virus like the flu, which often is accompanied by body aches all over, including in the back. Instead, this fever seems to be unresolved and is accompanied by mainly back pain. This kind of fever is usually the body's response to an infection that needs to be addressed right away.
Back pain may be a part of daily life for some people, but sometimes it calls for additional attention. If you're experiencing pain with any of these symptoms or something just doesn't seem right, make an appointment with the spine experts at Reid Orthopedic Center…and don't wait.
Your spine plays a vital role in your ability to live an active and healthy life, so give it the consideration it deserves.