Approximately 70-90% of people will encounter some form of back pain at least once in their life. In Australia alone, over 15% of the population suffers from back-related problems, and this percentage will likely see an increase if prolonged back pain is not treated in a timely manner, and/or individuals continue to adopt bad habits that cause back pain.
Nevertheless, for anyone experiencing back pain for the first time, it can be extremely worrisome when the underlying cause is unknown. Quite often, back pain is no cause for alarm, however, unless you are informed of the many different causes of back pain, knowing when to seek medical attention, and/or what kind of specialist to get treated by, can be confusing for the patient.
Today, MSK Therapy is sharing some crucial information on differentiating between accompanying symptoms of back pain that are serious/life-threatening and those that require non-emergent care.
When to Visit the Emergency Room for Back Pain
Along with other symptoms, back pain can be related to various health conditions including organ damage, spinal cord problems, and cauda equina syndrome. To understand these (and other) serious underlying causes of back pain better, learn more about their accompanying symptoms below, and why you should visit the emergency room if/when you experience them.
If pain in the back is experienced after sustaining an injury or enduring acute trauma to the back, you must seek immediate medical attention. Upon visiting the ER, trauma surgeons and/or emergency physicians will conduct an urgent evaluation to ensure that there is no permanent damage caused to your back or other parts of the body.
Symptoms related to severe trauma include:
- Paralysis symptoms such as loss of feeling in one or both legs
- Numbness and pain in the leg
- Unable to lift your foot which is also known as ‘drop foot’
If a tumor travels to the vertebrae or develops in the spine, it can cause pain in the back which is generally the first symptom a patient will experience. Other symptoms that occur in the legs, as well as the back, are indications of which area of the spine the tumor is located in. Spinal tumors can be benign or metastatic which is why it is critically important to seek a prompt medical evaluation when related symptoms are experienced.
Common symptoms of spinal tumors include:
- Sudden weight loss
- Constant pain even when under medication
- Night sweats
- Motor weakness in one or both legs
Cauda Equina Syndrome
Any type of damage to the bundle of nerves and/or nerve rootlets that make up the cauda equina can cause chronic back pain accompanied by various other symptoms. A serious underlying health condition can result in cauda equina syndrome, or it could be related to acute trauma caused to the area which also warrants a trip to the ER.
Some of the symptoms of cauda equina syndrome include:
- Loss of bowel movement control
- Numbness in one or more areas including inner thighs, genitals, buttocks, and groin
- Decreased sensation when urinating
- Difficulty in passing urine or poor stream
- Sexual dysfunction (in males and females)
Bacteria that travel from other areas of the body can accumulate in the spine and cause infection. This, in turn, causes back pain and other symptoms depending on where the infection is located, as well as the patient’s age.
Accompanying symptoms of a spinal infection include:
- Sudden weight loss
- Fever and chills
- Increased pain during the night
- Inflammation of the area
- The area surrounding the infection becomes red and warm
When to Go to a Chiropractor for Back Pain
If you are not experiencing severe or life-threatening symptoms such as those mentioned above, visiting a chiropractor is advised. The earlier you seek treatment for your back pain, the less chance there is for it to turn into chronic back pain and/or lead to severe back problems.
Patients who are suffering from back pain in tandem with the following symptoms should make an appointment with a chiropractor as soon as possible:
- Pain radiating up and down the sciatic nerve
- Muscle pulls/strains in the upper or lower back
- Increased back pain overtime
- Persistent back pain even when under medication
- Pain radiating to the back of the legs and buttocks
- Pain and stiffness in the back
- Numbness in the upper back
- Lower back pain when sitting for long periods
How Chiropractic Care Can Relieve Back Pain
Chiropractic treatments are aimed at managing chronic pain by way of spinal manipulation. When a patient receives chiropractic adjustments, his/her spine is realigned which, in turn, allows the body to heal itself in many different ways.
After conducting a thorough chiropractic examination, and learning your symptoms and medical history, your doctor will be able to reach a diagnosis and create a subsequent treatment program for your condition. This may include spinal realignment, adjustments, physiotherapy, and massage therapy which can all be conducted in a well-equipped chiropractic facility.
Chiropractic treatment generally involves low-high force manual techniques that relieve muscle tightness, nerve compression, and joint stress, all of which often contribute to lower or upper back pain. When treating an underlying condition that is causing back pain, regular appointments with your chiropractor is necessary.
In conclusion, if your back pain and related symptoms do not require a trip to the emergency room, visit MSK Therapy for a full check-up and examination, and start your chiropractic treatment as soon as possible to get rid of the pain in your back!