How to Know if Your Back Pain is an Emergency

While back pain is incredibly common, and many sources of it are treatable by your regular health care professional, some back pains could be the sign of something more serious. Typically, you should have someone take you to the emergency room if your back pain is an emergency so that things don’t get worse. Here are some tips to help you understand whether or not your back pain might be an emergency.

The Pain is Sharp Instead of Dull

Because of the way our body often communicates pain, pain can feel like it is in one place but the source of it could be another. Usually, these places are nearby, but they are unrelated. If your back pain is sharp, there’s a chance that you could have torn a ligament or a muscle, which would require treatment ranging from heat or cold therapy to potential surgery. However, that sharp pain could also indicate a concern with an internal organ located on your side or in your back. You should never ignore something that could be a problem with your internal organs.

The Pain Radiates Instead of Remaining in One Place

Often called a “shooting pain,” this type of pain seems to move from place to place around the body. This shooting pain often goes to the legs or the glutes (your backside), which could be a sign of nerve compression.

Legs Go Suddenly Weak

When nerves in your spine compress due to spinal stenosis, or sciatica, this compression can cause your limbs to go weak. This will usually be quickly obvious in your legs if you are walking. This must be treated by a professional. Another possible cause of leg weakness, though, is a stroke, which is a life-threatening emergency and will require immediate attention.

You Experience Incontinence

If you experience back pain accompanied by an inability to control the function of your bladder or your bowels, this could be a sign of nerve compression. It could also be a sign of another serious condition such as a spine infection two of which are meningitis and discitis.

Pins and Needles or Numbness in Your Glutes or Groin

This very specific type of lower back pain is known as saddle anesthesia and is a sign of a serious spine or nerve condition. You should seek treatment for this to see what your treatment options might be.

Back Pain Should be Treated Seriously

If you don’t know, you don’t know, so make sure your back pain is treated seriously. If you’re concerned, speak to your doctor. You may have something easily treatable and, if it is more complicated, they can recommend options for you right away.

Additionally, if you experience incontinence, weakness of the legs, and numbness at the same time, you may have a serious illness called cauda equine syndrome. This condition indicates damage to your spinal cord nerve(s). This is most definitely an emergency, requiring immediate surgery to decompress the nerves.

Author
Maryland Pain & Wellness

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