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Back Pain: When to See a Doctor

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Back Pain: When to See a Doctor

  • Dr. Charla Fischer
  • Feb 26, 2019

An aching back can be painful and annoying, but it’s common for people to treat their back pain without seeing a doctor. It’s tempting to perform home remedies that will get you through the pain so that you can eventually return to your normal activities. However, sometimes back pain is more than you should handle on your own. Seeing a professional like NYC Spine Surgeon Dr. Fischer at NYU Langone Medical Center in NYC may be the best course of action. Here are some red flags that indicate medical treatment is appropriate when it comes to back pain.

Fever
Back pain accompanied by fever may be a sign of a serious infection. If your doctor determines you have an infection, antibiotics will likely be prescribed to properly eliminate it.

Numbness
Tingling or numbness often indicates nerve irritation or damage. If you experience a feeling of pins-and-needles, you might have nerve pressure from a condition like a herniated disc or spinal stenosis. Left untreated, nerve damage can cause permanent disabilities. It is best to see your doctor for an evaluation and possible testing to check your nerves.

Trauma
If you have back pain after suffering a serious trauma like a fall or car accident, see a physician like NYC Spine Surgeon Dr. Fischer to ensure there are no fractures or other issues.

Prolonged pain
Most back pain improves within six weeks, so if your pain lingers more than that amount of time, schedule an appointment to learn the cause and treatment of your problem.

Medical history
Certain medical conditions can increase your risk for back pain or problems. A history of cancer calls for a doctor visit to rule out spread of cancer as a cause for back pain. A history of osteoporosis is commonly linked to fractures, so an X-ray may be needed to determine if this has occurred. Chronic steroid use also puts a patient at increased risk of fractures. A person with a suppressed immune system is also at higher risk for infections, which can trigger back pain. Antibiotics, physical therapy, or even surgery may be needed to treat conditions such as these.

Weight loss
Unexplained weight loss coupled with back pain is a reason to see a physician like NYC Spine Surgeon Dr. Fischer at NYU Langone Medical Center to eliminate tumors or infection as cause for your symptoms.

Foot drop
If your toes drag on the ground or you must lift your foot higher than normal to walk, you might have a condition called foot drop that often comes with back pain. Foot drop usually means there is a larger problem like nerve or muscle damage, so a doctor’s care is required to look for problems like a herniated disc.

Pain at night
Pain that only occurs during the night when you’re trying to sleep may be a symptom of a sprain, disc degeneration, or even cancer. Nighttime back pain is a reason to see a doctor without delay.

Advanced age
There is a higher risk for tumors, infection, and other causes of back pain in patients over age 70. Regular visits to your physician at this age is important for good health.


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