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Back Pain: Signs You Need to See a Doctor

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Back pain has become such a normal, everyday part of modern life that we often just pop a couple ibuprofen and go on with our business. But sometimes, it can signal something more serious than just a case of computer-work-meets-old-mattress woes. Here’s how to tell if your aches and pains are no big deal or cause for concern. 

Numbness or Tingling

If your pain is accompanied by that pins and needles feeling, it could be an indicator of nerve damage, which is clinically more significant than typical pain. And when the tingling sensation persists, a trip to the doctor is in order — if left untreated, prolonged nerve irritation can cause permanent disabilities.

Pain, But Only at Night

Are your days spent pain-free, but your nights are full of tossing and turning due to back pain? Then, it’s definitely time to get to a back and spine specialist. Pain that keeps you up at night can be a sign of disc degeneration, a sprain or even a tumor.

Loss of Bowel or Bladder Control

Back pain paired with a lack of control over your bowels or bladder can be a sign of a rare but serious condition called cauda equine syndrome. Typically caused by a herniated disc or trauma to the spine, this condition causes the nerve roots in the end of the spine to become paralyzed.

Heavy Feet and Difficulty Walking

If you find yourself consciously lifting your foot higher to compensate for its dragging, you may be experiencing foot drop. Often accompanied by back pain, it is a sign of possible nerve issues — essentially, the nerve that tells the muscles to lift the foot may be damaged.

Pain that Just Won’t Quit

Ninety percent of back pain cases get better within six weeks. So if your pain is a bit more persistent or it’s accompanied by fever, night sweats or unintended weight loss, it’s time to call your doctor, who can do tests to rule out serious issues and prescribe treatment to help you get relief.


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