Lower back pain is typically not a cause for serious alarm, but if you experience the following two symptoms related to lower back pain you should seek immediate medical attention:

See When to Seek Medical Care for Low Back Pain

The causes of your lower back pain can be complex and difficult to diagnose.
Getting an Accurate Back Pain Diagnosis

1. Progressive leg weakness

Progressive weakness in your lower extremities (legs and/or feet) may be a symptom of cauda equina syndrome (you may also feel weakness in your hips, genital area, and buttocks). Cauda equina syndrome is usually caused by an injury to your spine, a spinal condition, or an infection that results in the severe compression of your entire nerve sac in your lumbar spine.

See Causes of Cauda Equina Syndrome

The name cauda equina comes from the Latin for "horse’s tail," as the nerves at the end of your spine share a resemblance with a horse’s tail.

See Cauda Equina Syndrome Symptoms

Treatment for cauda equina syndrome typically entails immediate surgical decompression to reduce or eliminate the pressure on your affected nerves. If left untreated for too long, cauda equina syndrome may lead to paralysis, loss of sensation below your lumbar spine, and a loss of bladder and/or bowel control.

See Treatments for Cauda Equina Syndrome

Article continues below

2. Acute back pain with abdominal pain

If you experience the sudden onset of lower back pain that is not clearly connected with an injury or other cause, you may be suffering from an abdominal aortic aneurysm.

See Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Causes

The aorta is your body’s main artery, and it stretches from your heart all the way through your abdomen. As a general rule, if an abdominal aortic aneurysm results in severe abdominal and/or back pain it is considered life-threatening, as it likely indicates a rupture. Other life-threatening indicators may include symptoms of shock as well as low blood pressure.

See Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Symptoms

If your abdominal aortic aneurysm is not detected until it reaches the point of an emergency, you will likely need immediate surgery to repair your ruptured artery.

See When Back Pain May Be a Medical Emergency

The above list is not comprehensive, as other symptoms like unexplained fever and bowel and/or bladder incontinence also require immediate medical attention. But the bottom line is that it is better to be overly cautious when it comes to addressing potentially dangerous lower back pain symptoms. So when in doubt, seek medical care.

Learn more:

Diagnosing Lower Back Pain

Lower Back Pain Symptoms