Oh, your aching back! Nothing can make you feel older and feebler than back pains that won’t go away. They make it difficult to get around during the day and hard to sleep at night. Somewhere in the back of your mind, you may be worried that your pain is due to something serious. Should you bite the bullet and see a doctor for back pain?
While most back pain will be found to be musculoskeletal in origin, usually related to muscular strain or overuse, it can also be caused by more serious medical problems ranging from a herniated disc to a kidney stone. That’s why it’s important to be aware of symptoms that signal that you need to seek medical attention.
Occasionally, back pain may be caused by damage to a disc or a disc herniation. When this is the cause for back pains, you may experience numbness or weakness in the legs or feet and may have changes in your bowel habits such as loss of bowel or bladder control. Another sign of disc related back problems is pain that radiates into the legs. If you experience any of these symptoms, you need to schedule an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible.
You should also see your doctor for back pains if you have a history of recent back injury or a history of cancer, arthritis, or osteoporosis. If you’ve been in a car accident or have osteoporosis, there’s the risk of an undiagnosed fracture being the cause of back pain, whereas if you have a history of cancer or arthritis, these conditions can affect the spine. Sometimes a narrowing of the spinal canal can occur causing a condition called spinal stenosis. This causes symptoms similar to a herniated disc and the back pain generally becomes progressively worse.
Back pain can also be caused by a variety of other conditions including kidney infections and kidney stones as well as gynecologic problems in females. If you have sharp, recurrent pains in the back, particularly around the flank area, you may be experiencing a kidney stone, whereas back pain with a fever, nausea, vomiting, or urinary tract symptoms may be due to a kidney infection. For these symptoms, you’ll want to see your doctor right away as the symptoms will usually worsen without treatment.
Gynecologic conditions that can cause back pain in females include endometriosis, an ectopic pregnancy, fibroid tumors, and ovarian cysts. If you experience unexplained vaginal bleeding, could be pregnant, or have back pain that persists beyond ten days, see your doctor.
In general, back pain that’s related to muscle strain will resolve in seven to ten days with gentle stretching exercises, application of heat, and analgesics. If symptoms persist beyond this time, see your doctor. You should also see your doctor for back pains if you have leg numbness, weakness, radiation of pain into the legs, bowel or bladder symptoms, nausea, vomiting, fever, or if there’s any possibility you could be pregnant.