When is Back Pain Serious?
98% of back pain isn’t serious
A lot of people end up in A&E when they experience acute back pain. However, less than 2% of people with back pain have serious underlying problems. And often the most excruciating back pain is due to nothing more sinister than muscle spasms; you can liken it to cramp – horrible but not dangerous.
Interestingly, serious back problems are often not painful at all – there are other signs and symptoms that tell us that further investigation is needed, which can be urgent but this is rare.
So if you have horrible back pain and you’re scared it’s something serious, the likelihood is that your muscles are in spasm, creating a protect response that’s making your pain system really sensitive to movements that normally wouldn’t be a problem.
Back Pain Red Flags
Sometimes it IS necessary to seek help: for example if your pain isn’t improving, is extreme or getting worse, or is accompanied by other symptoms (see below), or if your pain prevents you doing usual daily activities.
Red flags are signs or symptoms that raise the possibility of serious underlying condition.
Here are the red flags of back pain – they are rare and you will likely find that don’t have any. But if you think you do, seek medical attention immediately to rule out anything serious, then you can work on getting back to normal movement with confidence and getting over your back pain quickly:
– Pain that started after a serious accident, such as a car accident
– Numbness or pins and needles around your genitals or buttocks, or in both arms or both legs
– Changes to your waterworks (ie you’re having difficulties peeing)
– Loss of bladder or bowel control
– Chest pain
– Fever (high temperature of 38C of 100.4F or above)
– Unexplained weight loss
– Swelling or deformity in your back that isn’t normal for you
– You can’t find any position that is comfortable
– Pain that doesn’t improve or is worse at nightAs you can see, these signs and symptoms aren’t what you’d expect with back pain, if you’re unsure, seek help and advice.