We are all familiar with the common aches and pains of a hard day at work or an intense workout. But occasionally, back pain can be an indication of something more serious, even disabling. Common spinal problems include disc herniation, spinal stenosis (arthritic narrowing), spondylolisthesis (slippage of the vertebrae), and bone spurs can cause a wide range of symptoms from pain, numbness, weakness, gait disturbance, and more. Here are eleven signs your back problem might not just be something to shrug off:
- Your back pain has been going on for a few weeks
- You’re in constant pain
- It is difficult to sleep through the night without waking up due to discomfort
- Your lower extremities (legs and feet) feel heavy when you walk – especially uphill
- Numbness occurs in your legs that will not go away
- Your bowel movements have become irregular and painful; you may also experience blood in your stool
- Your bladder has become irritable, and you have trouble emptying it
- You notice a change in the way your clothes fit; they may feel tighter or looser than before
- The pain is severe, radiating down one side of your body – not just at the site of pain on your back. This could mean that something is going on in one or more of your spinal discs.
- The pain has increased gradually, and it is present all day long
- You have had a recent fever
If you can answer yes to any of these questions, you should see a physician as soon as possible to get an accurate diagnosis of what’s going on – even if the symptoms are not severe. Your back may be telling you that there’s something more serious going on.
J. Patrick Johnson, MD is a renowned neurosurgeon specializing in spinal disorders and has served as the Director of the Institute for Spinal Disorders at Cedars Sinai Medical Center since 2001 and previously as the Director of the UCLA Comprehensive Spine Center from 1993-2001.
This article is offered as informational only and not to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice.