6 Back Pain Red Flags That You Really Shouldn't Ignore, Even If It Seems Like Nothing
There's nothing worse than feeling totally incapacitated because of an injury. When you have back pain, it can be debilitating, and it can keep you from doing your usual, everyday activities, like working out, spending time with friends, or just plain being alive without feeling physically miserable. But when you're in pain, it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between minor, short-term discomfort, and something that requires a professional opinion. This is why it's always helpful to be aware of common back pain red flags, so you know when it's time to make an appointment with your doctor.
The main reason why you should be extra cautious about back- and neck-related injuries is because of their proximity to your spine. A bad back injury could mean that a portion of your vertebrae isn't totally aligned, or that you have a pinched nerve, according to the Mayo Clinic. Of course, back injuries can also just indicate sore muscles, which is no biggie, but because your back is so instrumental for your mobility, you should always try to get to the bottom of any discomfort you're feeling in this part of your body.
There are tons of ways to soothe your back pain, from seeing a chiropractor to getting acupuncture, but the first step you have to take is this: figure out what's going on. Here are six back pain red flags that might just mean it's time to see your doctor.
1. The Pain Is Shooting Down Your Back
If you're feeling shooting pain that travels up and down your back, it's probably time to talk to your doctor about it.
Sharp back pain might just be a passing muscle spasm, but it could also be something more serious, like a herniated disc, a compression fracture, or some sort of infection, according to Everyday Health.
2. You're Having Difficulty Going To The Bathroom
If you're having trouble using the bathroom (either peeing or moving your bowels), and you're also feeling back pain, you should talk to a doctor ASAP, because you might have a condition called cauda equina syndrome, according to Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
Cauda equina syndrome is a rare type of nerve compression that can be fixed with surgery, according to OrthoInfo, but only if you talk to a doctor who can diagnose it.
3. The Pain Gets Worse When You Sit Down
If your back pain increases in intensity when you sit or lie down, and it's been going on for months, then that's not a good sign. According to the online health resource Spine-Health, this type of back pain is called axial back pain.
On the bright side, in 90 percent of cases, axial back pain resolves itself on its own in a few weeks. But if it doesn't seem to be going away, Spine-Health reports that you may need to get an injection, or even surgery, depending on the specifics of your situation.
4. The Pain Was Originally Caused By Trauma To The Back Or Neck
If you suffered an injury to your back or neck, and you've been in pain ever since, then it might be time to call your doctor, or even your health care provider, to see what your options are.
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, you should seek help immediately if your pain is the result of a recent fall or physical trauma. You can't be too careful, especially when you may have sustained a spinal injury.
5. Your Limbs Are Tingling
If you have pins and needles in your arms or legs, in addition to moderate to severe back pain, then it's possible that you've sustained some sort of injury related to your nervous system, including a herniated disc, according to Weill Cornell Medicine.
A herniated disc can happen in your neck or your back, and it might lead to compression on your spinal chord, thus affecting your nerves.
6. You Have A Fever
According to research published in the journal American Academy of Family Physicians, when a fever accompanies your back pain, it could be a sign of a serious infection, including connective tissue disease or a spinal infection.
If your fever is 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, then call your doctor ASAP to relay your symptoms.