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When Your Back Pain Needs Medical Attention

When Your Back Pain Needs Medical Attention

Mar 13, 2024
Severe back pain or a traumatic accident makes it clear you should see a doctor. But the decision isn’t always that easy. Most people wait for their pain to improve, then wonder how long to put off medical care. Don’t guess. Follow these guidelines.

Back pain gradually improves in most people, yet they often need medical care to support their recovery. Even after you feel better, there’s a 50-50 chance of having a recurrent episode within one year.

Ultimately, 8% of all adults struggle with chronic back pain that limits their daily activities — a life you may avoid with timely medical attention.

Knowing when to seek help from our skilled Alliance Spine and Pain Centers team does more than relieve the pain. Getting medical care at the right time also helps you avoid enduring problems. If you already have chronic back pain, optimal care restores your quality of life.

When does your back pain need medical attention? Here, we list several guidelines to follow, but call the nearest office and connect with our team if you have any questions about your symptoms and when to schedule a back evaluation.

When to schedule an office appointment

The common symptoms of back pain vary. You may have achy or severe back pain. The pain may come and go, stay constant, or be triggered by specific movements. You may have tingling or numbness in your back and one or both legs.

No matter what type of pain you experience, you should schedule an office appointment if you have any of the following:

  • Pain that doesn’t improve in one week
  • Pain that gets worse
  • Constant or severe pain
  • Pain at night that wakes you up
  • Pain when lying down
  • Pain shooting down one or both legs
  • Worse pain when walking or standing
  • Tingling or numbness in one or both legs
  • Weakness in one or both legs
  • Abdominal pain

If you search online, you may find recommendations to give your back 4-6 weeks to heal before seeking medical care. 

While many back problems improve within 6 weeks, you shouldn’t endure the pain that long. Getting treatment to ease the pain also helps prevent it from turning into a chronic condition.

You also shouldn’t wait too long because it may affect your treatment for some conditions. The best example is a vertebral compression fracture.

Vertebral compression fractures occur when a vertebra collapses because it’s weakened by osteoporosis. If you connect with us before the bone heals in a collapsed position, we can restore the bone’s natural shape and height with a minimally invasive kyphoplasty.

Red flags signaling you need immediate care

Back pain caused by a traumatic injury, whether a car accident, sports injury, or fall, always needs immediate emergency attention.

There are two other groups of symptoms signaling you need immediate care, usually in the emergency room, so you can get advanced testing: signs of a pinched nerve or an infection.

Signs of a severely pinched nerve

The symptoms in this list are signs of a seriously damaged spinal nerve. Without immediate treatment, you can end up with permanent complications like paralysis or impaired bladder and bowel control.

Don’t wait to seek care if you experience any of the following:

  • Loss of bladder and/or bowel function
  • Sudden disabling pain
  • Leg numbness and weakness
  • Difficulty walking
  • Loss of balance
  • Saddle anesthesia

Saddle anesthesia means you lose sensation in the areas that would touch the saddle if you were riding a horse: the groin, inner thighs, buttocks, and anal area.

Signs of an infection

Spinal infections are rare but pose a dangerous threat to your health when they occur. Signs of an infection include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Severe back pain
  • Muscle spasms
  • Pain when urinating
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control
  • Numbness or weakness in your legs

If you recently had spine surgery, you may also have redness, swelling, tenderness, and drainage near the incision.

Find relief from back pain

Our team specializes in advanced treatments that target the source of your pain, support healing, and allow you to enjoy an active, pain-free life.

Book online or call the nearest Alliance Spine and Pain Centers office to ask questions or schedule an appointment and start your journey toward a thriving life.