Back Pain Symptoms: When You Should See a Doctor

My Doctor Finder
August 31, 2022

Aches and pains, especially in the upper and lower back, are quite normal if one is ageing or if they live a lifestyle that’s physically demanding. For that reason, a sensation like back pain is not necessarily alarming on its own. However, in some cases, back pain can be symptomatic of a more serious health problem and is worth getting examined by a medical professional. The question is, how do you know the difference between tolerable back pain and back pain that should be seen by a doctor? 

5 Signs You Should See a Doctor for Your Back Pain

If you’re suffering from back pain and wondering when you should seek further treatment for it, here are five telltale signs:

  • Your Back Pain Seems to Increase in Severity and Regularity

You may experience back pain now and then, and more often than not, you may have a logical basis for determining the cause of its severity. For example, if you had to do some heavy lifting at work or if you spent a prolonged period in a cramped space, it would be understandable for your back to ache a little more than usual.

But if the pain has inexplicably started to increase and occur more often than you’re used to, it’s a good idea to see a doctor. You will need to know why your back pain is worsening, and a doctor like an orthopaedic specialist may help you get to the root of the problem.

  • The Pain Persists Even After You Rest and Take Over-the-Counter Medicines

There are two simple methods for appeasing normal back pain: rest and over-the-counter (OTC) medicines like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and pain relief balms. Whenever back pain strikes you, give your body enough time to recover from strenuous activity and try taking a pain reliever or rubbing balm on the afflicted area.

If you’ve tried both of these home methods to no avail, and your back pain either persists or gets worse, go consult a specialist. They may be able to recommend an intervention that will work better and speed up your recovery.

  • The Pain Has Progressed to Other Parts of Your Body

Another prominent sign that your back pain merits a closer look is if it has spread to other parts of your body. Take special notice if what started as back pain has since evolved into pain in your hips, buttocks, or lower legs and if any of these get worse when you sit down, sneeze, or cough. 

Back pain that’s followed by a shooting sensation down the leg may be evidence of sciatica, or an injury to the sciatic nerve. Sciatica is common among pregnant women, patients who are suffering from herniated discs, and elderly patients with degenerative arthritis. In any of these cases, you will want to get looked at by a doctor and go through the requisite tests for a definite diagnosis. 

  • Your Back Pain Is Causing Significant Mobility and Balance Problems

You should also go to a specialist if your back pain has gotten in the way of your mobility or caused the rest of your body to be off-balance. Such problems may be attributable to a more serious health condition like a fracture or a degenerative disc disease.

In these cases, it’s important to see a doctor and to go through tests so that you can examine an ailment that would otherwise be invisible to you. It’s also in your best interest to get checked and to seek immediate relief for your back pain so that you don’t get into a bad accident and worsen your condition. 

  • Your Back Pain Comes with Other Alarming Symptoms

Finally, if your back pain comes with uncharacteristic symptoms like a fever, weakness, dizziness, problems controlling your bladder, or weight loss, you should seek further medical attention immediately. These symptoms may be indicative of a graver problem like a systemic infection or even a tumour.

It may be scary to think about how simple back pain may foreshadow such serious health problems. But the sooner you get diagnosed and receive appropriate medical treatment, the better your chances are of staying in good health. Don’t hesitate to go to a specialist as soon as possible if unusual symptoms are accompanying your back pain.

Clinical Pathways for Relieving and Managing Back Pain

The right treatment for your back pain will depend on the nature and severity of the condition. Upon going to a healthcare facility for treatment, you will likely have to undergo a physical examination and request an x-ray, computerised tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, or EOS scan. Your doctor may also recommend that you take medication, use an orthotic device to support your back, or undergo physiotherapy. In dire situations, a surgical procedure may be necessary. 

When dealing with back pain and other related aches, do your best to listen to your body and to determine a baseline for what you feel is normal versus what’s cause for alarm. Whenever you feel like your pain veers into the latter territory, that’s good enough reason to seek medical attention.

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Anna Collins

I've been experiencing persistent back pain these days, and just when I was thinking it was because of the accumulated fatigue I got from working overtime last month, it continues to persist to this d