Back Pain and Doctors: When To Call a Doctor

The bottom line that everyone should remember is that if one is in doubt, consult a doctor. If back pain is getting worse over time, does not feel better with rest and over the counter pain remedies, and/or involves neurological symptoms then it is advisable to be evaluated by a back pain doctor.

When to See a Back Pain Doctor

In general, if the pain has any of the following characteristics, it is a good idea to see a physician for an evaluation:

  • Back pain that follows an accident, such as a car accident or falling off a ladder
  • The back pain is ongoing and is getting worse
  • The pain continues for more than four to six weeks
  • The pain is severe and does not improve after a few days of typical remedies, such as rest, ice and common pain relievers (such as ibuprofen or Tylenol)
  • Severe pain at night that wakes you up, even from a deep sleep
  • There is back and abdominal pain
  • Numbness or altered feelings in the upper inner thighs, groin area, buttock or genital area
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  • Neurological symptoms, such as weakness, numbness or tingling in the extremities – the leg, foot, arm or hand
  • Unexplained fever with increasing back pain
  • Sudden upper back pain, especially if you are at risk for osteoporosis.

Back Pain Symptoms That Require Urgent Medical Care

The following back pain symptoms may be indications of a serious medical condition and anyone with these should seek immediate medical care:

  • Difficulty passing urine or having a bowel movement
  • Progressive weakness in the legs
  • Severe, continuous abdominal and low back pain.

People should also seek prompt medical attention if other unexplained symptoms accompany their back pain, such as fever, history of cancer, recent unexplained weight loss, pain that is so bad it awakens them from sleep, or pain after a trauma.

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