When Should You Go To The Doctor For Back Pain?

Who hasn't dealt with back pain at one time or another? It can come in a wide range of forms, from muscle aches or a burning, stabbing sensation that can radiate down your leg (via the Mayo Clinic). Anything from bending, twisting, lifting, or standing can exacerbate your pain and make it worse.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, back pain is one of the most common reasons people miss work and seek medical help. There are a wide range of factors that can lead to back pain, from age to weight gain to congenital defects, like spina bifida or scoliosis. Because of the sheer number of causes, even school-age children can experience back pain.

Many back pain sufferers can treat their symptoms at home with ice packs, rest, and over-the-counter medications (via Medical News Today). However, there are times when the pain may become too much to handle, or you could be developing other symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic. If you experience something like this, then it may be time to call your physician.

Watch out for back pain red flags

When it comes to back pain, there are certain warning signs you should look for that will tell you when it's time to make a doctor's appointment (via Spine-health). These include a sudden loss of sensation in your legs, difficulty walking or standing, or loss of bladder or bowel control. In addition, you should contact your physician if you have had any kind of trauma that could result in a back injury, such as a car accident or a sports-related injury.

Timing is also an important factor to consider. According to the University of Maryland Medical System, if you have been in pain for more than a week, the pain extends to other parts of your body, or have numbing or tingling sensations, you should seek medical help. Additionally, the type of injury you have should determine the type of doctor you go to see (via Duke Health). If it is from a mild injury, you can most likely just see your primary care physician. However, if the symptoms are more severe, you will want to see a chiropractor or a physical therapist. In more extreme cases, you may be recommended to a pain management specialist or a spine surgeon.

Your doctor will want to rule out anything serious

In addition to injury, your doctor will want to rule out other potential causes of your back pain. Medical conditions, such as cancer, immune suppression, and osteoporosis could also be possible triggers for back pain (via WebMD). You could also be suffering from a condition known as foot drop, in which your toes drag along the ground and you consciously have to lift your foot as you walk. This could be a sign of nerve problems, as well as a muscle or brain-related issue.

Treatment for back pain can vary, depending on the condition and its severity. Generally speaking, the majority of back pain issues can be treated without surgical intervention (via Duke Health). Standard treatments can include physical or chiropractic therapy, anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants, or joint injections. If you have disc problems or a condition such as osteoarthritis, then surgery may be required, according to the Mayo Clinic. It's best to talk to your doctor to determine the cause of your back pain and figure out a course of treatment that will allow you to get on with your life.