Four out of five people in America will experience back pain at some point in their lives. While the most back problems are the result of an injury or poor posture (and thus can be rectified by simply tweaking one’s lifestyle), other back problems are more severe and require (sometimes immediate) medical attention.
Back Pain Caused by Trauma
If your back has been hurt in an injury — falling from a high place or slipping on ice, for example — then you’ll need an X-ray to determine whether or not anything has been seriously damaged. Most likely, the pain has been caused by bruising in the area and not a fracture, and can therefore heal through a simple regimen of rest, ice and pain medication.
Excessive Pain at Night
Back pain that gets worse at night will not only make restful sleep difficult to come by, but could also indicate other problems that should not be ignored. More often than not, a person’s nocturnal back pain can be remedied by adjusting their sleeping positions, but when that doesn’t work, more serious issues like scoliosis, spinal stenosis, arthritis or a tumor could be to blame. See your doctor immediately if you experience this, especially if it accompanies any other symptoms as well.
Unexplained Weight Loss
A person’s weight will fluctuate moderately throughout his life, but significant weight loss — defined as more than five percent of his total body weight — without a reasonable explanation, could be a sign of a tumor or serious infection. If such is the case, antibiotics will likely be prescribed.
When you have the flu, you experience a heightened perception of pain, so it is often coincidental that you might experience back pain while ill. But if a fever of more that 101 degrees that won’t subside after a few days that is accompanied by back pain could indicate a serious infection. Your doctor will determine if antibiotics are required.
Tingling in the Extremities
Tingling in your legs and feet could indicate a much more serous condition including a herniated disc (which might require medication or manipulation therapy in lieu of surgery) or spinal stenosis (which might also be treated with pain management therapy). If standard conservative treatments are not effective, however, surgery may be required.
Family History of Cancer
Sometimes, lower back pain can be the symptom of a tumor which may or may not have originated in the area. If there is a family history of cancer, the odds are increased that this might be the case. Remember to mention any family history when speaking with your doctor to determine if this is a concern.
Whether your back pain began as a sudden, sharp pain or as a slow, progressive problem, if the pain cannot be lessened with rest and over-the-counter pain medication, then there may be a bigger problem at hand. If you experience any of the following symptoms in addition to your back pain, contact us as soon as possible.
To learn more about Back Pain visit our guide to everything you should know about back pain and treatment.