Back pain is common, affecting more than half of Americans at some point in their lives. It’s also one of the most common reasons people visit doctors and undergo tests. In fact, a 2017 survey found that back pain is the leading cause of disability for Americans aged 18 to 60. Despite its prevalence, many people who experience back pain don’t get the care they need or take the steps necessary for a quick resolution. If you experience any of the following with back pain, you should see your primary care physician as soon as possible.
Back pain with numbness and tingling
For many people, back pain is a normal part of aging. But if you experience numbness and tingling in your hands or feet, this could signify a more serious spinal problem. They could indicate a pinched nerve between the spine and the arm or leg. Suppose you have numbness and tingling in your hands or feet. In that case, you’ll want to see your doctor immediately, as it could signal a severe injury, such as a spinal cord injury, scoliosis, a ruptured disk, or sciatica.
Back pain after a traumatic injury
Traumatic injuries to the back can result in episodic back pain, lasting weeks or months. Episodic back pain is often accompanied by low back pain or stiffness and a range of other symptoms, such as fatigue and headaches. If you recently sustained a traumatic injury to your back, such as a car crash or fall, you should see your doctor immediately. A traumatic injury may result in a back pain condition that lasts longer than the original issue. The pain may persist even if you have a swift recovery.
Back pain lasting over 10 days
This is a concerning back pain condition that requires immediate attention. Persistent back pain lasting more than 10 days is generally a sign that you have a severe condition such as a herniated disk, cancer, an infection, or arthritis. You may want to wait a few days before seeing your physician, especially if you’ve had back pain before and the pain has resolved quickly. However, if the pain has lasted for more than 10 days, it’s a sign that you should seek emergency care.
Back pain that limits your ability to perform routine tasks
Back pain that prevents you from performing daily activities may indicate a severe condition, such as an infection. But it could also signify a severe injury, such as a ruptured disk. If you can’t do certain activities or tasks, such as climbing stairs or bending over, due to back pain, it’s a red flag. If you have back pain that limits your ability to perform routine tasks, you should see your doctor immediately.
Back pain that stops you from sleeping
Pain that prevents you from sleeping may indicate a serious back issue, such as a herniated disk. Or it can be a muscle issue caused by bad posture. If OTC medication and heat or ice therapy don’t ease your back pain or it worsens at night, then you need to see your doctor as it can indicate a severe problem. Many other conditions, such as heart problems, can cause back pain when sleeping.
Checking your symptoms with your doctor can put your mind at ease and get the treatment you need to reduce your back pain and get you back to full health quickly.
What other things you shouldn’t ignore when it comes to back pain? Let me know in the comments below!