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Got Back Pain? Signs It is Time to See a Doctor

Almost everyone experiences back pain at some point ” in fact, the American Chiropractic Association estimates that as many as 80 percent of adults will complain of a sore back. Often, back pain is a temporary condition, caused by overexertion, improper lifting, sleeping or sitting in an awkward position, or a lack of exercise. In those cases, the pain goes away in a few hours or days with simple remedies like over-the-counter pain medications, stretching, and rest.

However, not all back pain has an obvious cause, and when it is severe or ongoing, it can actually be indicative of a more serious problem that requires medical intervention. If you have any of the following conditions in addition to back pain, Michigan health care providers recommend that you call your doctor for an appointment right away.


Pain due to overdoing it when doing yardwork is normal. Rest and some pain relievers will have you feeling better in no time. If your pain is caused by a more serious trauma though, such as falling off a ladder when doing that yardwork, then you need to see a doctor right away. Any time you have back pain due to some type of injury or accident, even if you don’t think there is a serious issue, you should get checked out to avoid serious problems. This is especially true if you notice any swelling or redness in your back after the incident.

Additional Symptoms

Certain symptoms, when they occur with back pain, are indicative of a possible infection or other serious illness, and should not be ignored. These include:

  • Fever over 101 degrees
  • Sudden unexpected weight loss
  • Difficulty controlling your bowels or bladder
  • Blood in the urine and pain while urinating

If you have back pain along with weakness, numbness, or tingling ” either in your back or any other part of the body ” it’s important to be seen right away. This is generally indicative of nerve irritation or damage, caused by a more serious issue such as a herniated disc or spinal stenosis (a narrowing of the spinal canal.)

Ongoing Pain

Again, most back pain is temporary, so if your pain lasts longer than a few days, it’s worth a visit to your provider. Most doctors recommend that you see a doctor if the pain lasts longer than a week with home treatment. Pain that keeps you from engaging in daily activities, that comes and goes, or that worsens at certain times or when you’re in certain positions; i.e., lying down to sleep. In fact, if your pain is consistently worse at night, that’s often an indication of a serious issue that should be evaluated by a doctor.

Balance Problems

It’s normal for back pain to affect how you walk or make certain positions uncomfortable. If your pain makes it difficult or impossible to maintain balance and walk at all, get to the doctor right away. One common issue is what doctors refer to as “foot drop.” Often a symptom of a problem with the nerves, muscles, or brain, foot drop is characterized by dragging the toes when walking or the need to consciously think about lifting your foot when taking a step. This condition is usually accompanied by back pain, and requires medical treatment.

Pain That Extends Beyond the Back

If your pain spreads beyond the back, and into your arms and legs, there could be additional issues such as a herniated disc causing nerve damage, or other problems like sciatica. Only a trained medical professional can identify the actual cause of your pain, so make an appointment right away if you are experiencing shooting pain that extends into your fingers, or through your buttocks and into your legs.

Sometimes, chronic back pain is caused by factors like pregnancy or advanced age, and you can experience relief via massage, spinal manipulation, medication, or other treatments. The first step, though, is to see a qualified healthcare provider and have your pain evaluated to determine a diagnosis and the best course of treatment. Ignoring your pain, and continuing to attempt to treat it yourself will not only prolong your discomfort, but could lead to serious complications due to other untreated conditions.