Do you know the signs that are worrying?
You know what it’s like, low back pain strikes and you suddenly cannot move. After a brief google search you are now convinced you will be paralysed by nightfall! We all have a tendency to over-analyse pain, especially when at its worst. To help you separate the serious from the less serious here is a list of real warning signs to look out for, and why!
1. Pulsating pain
Continual pulsing pain in your back can be a sign of something called an aneurysm. Although not all pulsing pain is an aneurysm, because of the serious nature of this condition, it is always best to see a doctor immediately to eliminate the possibility.
2. Genital Numbness and / or difficulty urinating
Sudden back pain usually resolves relatively easily, however if you also have numbness around your genitals or bottom and/or difficulty passing urine, this could be a sign of a condition called Cauda Equina Syndrome. This is usually caused by a large disc herniation pressing on the nerves in the spinal canal in your lower back. These nerves are very fragile and can only survive this pressure for a short time, therefore it is essential you take yourself to hospital as soon as possible.
3. Back pain following trauma
It is surprising how many people walk away from an accident without realising they have a spinal fracture. Initially pain can be fairly general, however if the pain gets worse or does not diminish, seek medical attention for an x-ray. For example years ago a friend of mine dove into some water that was too shallow. Having landed on his head he dismissed his neck pain as just being jarred. However an x-ray taken 24 hours later confirmed a broken neck requiring traction for several months!
4. Pain lasting more than 6 weeks
Back pain coming from joints or muscles should abate. If the pain remains the same or is getting worse you need to seek some help or advice. More than likely this is not urgent (you do not need to go to A&E) however a full assessment by a trained professional would be advisable.
5. Presence of more than one red flag
A red flag is not a diagnosis but it is an indicator that the pain should be investigated more closely.
a. Back pain under 20 and over 55
b. Light tapping of the spine is painful
c. Unexplained fever or chills
d. Upper back pain (this is associated with greater risk of cancer)
e. Unexplained weight loss
f. Steroid use, drug abuse and HIV (risk factors)
g. Generally feeling unwell
h. Stiff joints in the morning for more than 1 hour
i. Symptoms that spread equally into both legs
j. Difficulty urinating, numbness around the groin
If you feel you fall into any of these categories you should seek some medical attention whether that is with your local GP or to see a musculoskeletal specialist such as myself.
If you are looking for a Farnham based osteopath specialising in manual therapy to treat pain or simply want to improve health and wellbeing, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01252 850814.