When is Back Pain an Emergency? The 5 Telling Signs


Back pain usually goes away after a few days. Hence, it is generally not an emergency case. However, if you are still experiencing backaches even after taking remedies and medication, then it should be a cause for concern. They can be a sign of something worse. In this case, they might indicate a medical emergency that needs urgent attention. Many patients who suffer from back pain have already turned to upper cervical doctors. 

Back pain is a common condition that numerous patients usually shrug off. However, its symptoms could be a sign of a medical emergency. Approximately 80% of adults will suffer back pain once in their lives. Therefore, it’s essential to be able to recognize the severity of your symptoms. Knowing these symptoms will help you track how long the pain lasts.

Back pain can stem from specific activities such as lifting or wrongfully twisting your back. If your back pain goes away after three days of rest and application of ice to the painful area, there is nothing to worry about. However, if your back pain constantly reappears or does not go away after 72 hours, you might have a severe condition that needs attention. 

5 Signs Your Back Pain Could Be a Medical Emergency

Incontinence: When back pain comes with an inability to control your bowels or bladder, it might be a sign of acute spine infection or nerve compression. Discitis or meningitis is possible too.

Numbness or pins and needles in the glutes or groin: Also known as saddle anesthesia, this sensation is a critical sign of nerve or spine condition. 

Radiating pain: This type of pain shoots or "moves" to the glutes or legs. This pain signals a nerve compression condition. Radiating pain can also be a symptom of nerve damage.

Unexpected and sudden weakness in the legs: Weakness in the limbs signifies compressed nerves in the spine due to conditions such as sciatica or spinal stenosis. It is also critical to take note that the sudden weakness of the legs may be an indication of a stroke.

Sharp pain rather than just a dull ache: This sensation can indicate a torn ligament or muscle, or a problem with an internal organ in the back or side of the body.

If you feel a combination of leg weakness, incontinence, and numbness, then you may have cauda equina syndrome, a critical illness caused by spinal cord nerve damage. This condition is a medical emergency. People who experience this condition usually need surgery right away to decompress the nerves and reduce permanent damage. Please seek help immediately and avoid this kind of back pain emergency.

Serious Conditions That Cause Back Pain:

Doctors often see a variety of less serious but still painful spine conditions. These conditions do not require surgery. Physical therapy, injectable painkillers, medication, or a combination of solutions can control most of its symptoms.

  • Sacroiliitis – an inflammation of the joints that link your spine and pelvis. This illness can produce pain in the low back, glutes, and upper legs.
  • Ankylosing spondylitis – inflammatory arthritis that affects the patients’ spines and turn it inflexible. It results in a continual hunched forward pose and spine pain.
  • Degenerative disc disease – causes whole spine pain and lumbar arthritis. This disease usually causes low-back pain developed with age. It is a wear-and-tear condition.
  • Adult degenerative scoliosis and kyphosis – these spine-curving conditions cause back pain and weakness in the lower extremities.

Rare Conditions That Cause Back Pain:

  • Kidney and digestive issues like pancreatitis and gallstones
  • (In women) Uterine fibroids and endometriosis
  • Ruptured aneurysm – a weakening and tearing of the blood vessel. This fatal condition needs immediate medical emergency

Back Pain Emergency Due to Possible Neurological Injury

Here are five new pathologies to examine in each patient who complains about low back pain:

  • Infection (Osteomyelitis, discitis, or spinal epidural abscess)
  • Fracture (Traumatic or pathologic)
  • Disc herniation with cord compression
  • Spinal metastasis with cord compression
  • Vascular catastrophes (retroperitoneal bleed, ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm , or spinal epidural hematoma).

Some of these serious causes of low back pain are easy to miss. In many cases, these conditions are detected on the second, third, or even fourth visit to the emergency department. This is why physicians approach all low back pain patients with a high degree of inspection, especially on repeat visits to the emergency room.

Getting Upper Cervical Care Helps with Back Pain

There is a link between a misalignment in the bones of the upper cervical spine and back pains. When there is pressure on the brainstem due to a misalignment present in either the C1 or C2 vertebra, back pain may occur.

Consult an upper cervical chiropractor in your locale for back pain relief. They use a gentle technique to help the neck bones realign properly. A method called upper cervical chiropractic, the technique does not inflict more pain and helps the bones to move into place pain-free. Once realigned, many patients can see improvements in their back pain symptoms. Start caring for your back pain issues, and remember to avoid any back pain emergency. Seek upper cervical chiropractic care today.





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The content and materials provided in this web site are for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to supplement or comprise a medical diagnosis or other professional opinion, or to be used in lieu of a consultation with a physician or competent health care professional for medical diagnosis and/or treatment. All content and materials including research papers, case studies and testimonials summarizing patients' responses to care are intended for educational purposes only and do not imply a guarantee of benefit. Individual results may vary, depending upon several factors including age of the patient, severity of the condition, severity of the spinal injury, and duration of time the condition has been present.