Do you know when it’s crucial to see the doctor for back pain?*

Have an attack of back or neck pain? Do you know which symptoms are the most serious? It’s important to know, because certain symptoms need to be seen immediately — or they can become permanent.

EMERGENCY SYMPTOM

Numbness or weakness in the leg or foot is a SERIOUS disc-related symptom that is NOT appropriate for watchful waiting. Left untreated, the symptom can become permanent. You should see a spine specialist within 2 days.

If pain, weakness or numbness extends into the foot so that you are unable to lift your toe as you walk, that is called Foot Drop, which is an emergency disc-related symptom. You need a spine specialist within 2 days. If not treated promptly, it could lead to permanent weakness in the foot.

Call our office at (303) 697-7463 or request an appointment.

Pain that radiates into a leg below the knee can imply a herniated disc in the low back. Many times radiating pain can be treated non-surgically. To be safe, radiating pain should be seen by a spine specialist within 2 days.

Call our office at (303) 697-7463 or request an appointment.

Pain that is limited to the low back (without trauma) may be the result of muscle strain. While pain spasms can be excruciating, muscle strain problems do not require surgery. See our Home Remedies section on our Internet site for special stretches that can relieve pain, and the proper use of anti-inflammatories. While less common, a kidney injection or kidney stone may also cause low back pain symptoms. Consequently, you should consult a spine specialist accordingly for symptoms that persist beyond 5 days to determine the cause of your symptoms and the best treatment options, including a customized home exercise program that will make the back stronger, more flexible and resistant to future strain.

Call our office at (303) 697-7463 or request an appointment.

Neck pain can be caused by traumatic injury, like whiplash from a car accident, or muscle or ligament strain. See our Home Remedies section on our Internet site. If pain persists beyond a week, you should see a spine specialist to determine the underlying cause.

Call our office at (303) 697-7463 or request an appointment.

EMERGENCY SYMPTOM

Numbness or weakness in the arm or hand is a more serious disc-related symptom that is NOT appropriate for watchful waiting. Left untreated, the symptom can become permanent. You should see a spine specialist within 2 days.

Call our office at (303) 697-7463 or request an appointment.

Pain that radiates into an arm below the elbow can imply a herniated disc in the neck. Many times, radiating pain can be treated non-surgically. To be safe, radiating pain should be seen by a spine specialist within 2 days.

Call our office at (303) 697-7463 or request an appointment.

EMERGENCY SYMPTOM

This is a SERIOUS emergency symptom (cauda equina) that needs to be treated immediately by a spine surgeon within 24 hours. If you experience these symptoms at night or on the weekend, go to the emergency room. If not treated quickly, the person may lose control over their bowel and bladder permanently.

Call our office at (303) 697-7463 or request an appointment.

POSSIBLE EMERGENCY

Any time you fall, are in a car accident, or could have fractured a bone in your back, you should see a spine specialist immediately!

Call our office at (303) 697-7463 or request an appointment.

EMERGENCY SYMPTOM

Other symptoms may be unrelated to a back or neck problem, like cervical meningitis. This can be serious. You should consult a physician immediately for any of the above symptoms.

Call our office at (303) 697-7463 or request an appointment.

EMERGENCY SYMPTOM

Numbness or weakness in the leg or foot is a SERIOUS disc-related symptom that is NOT appropriate for watchful waiting. Left untreated, the symptom can become permanent. You should see a spine specialist within 2 days.

If pain, weakness or numbness extends into the foot so that you are unable to lift your toe as you walk, that is called Foot Drop, which is an emergency disc-related symptom. You need a spine specialist within 2 days. If not treated promptly, it could lead to permanent weakness in the foot.

Call our office at (303) 697-7463 or request an appointment.

* Those who self diagnose and self treat themselves do so at their own risk. We accept no responsibility for any problems that may result from the use or misuse of educational information intended to be helpful guidance.

The vast majority of back problems improve on their own or with nonsurgical treatment. There are a few warning signs, however, that may indicate serious spinal problems. If you experience any of these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.

Loss of control of the bowel or bladder and retention of urine may indicate damage to the spine’s cauda equina nerves. The cauda equina is a bundle of nerves in the low back where the spinal cord ends. Damage to these nerves can be permanent if not treated immediately (within a day or so). See a spine specialist, or go to an emergency room if necessary.

Weakness or numbness in a leg or arm, especially if it is severe—and it is getting worse—also points to nerve damage. This includes “foot drop,” a condition where the muscles of the leg and foot are too weak to raise the foot up as the individual attempts to walk. Again, nerve damage associated with these symptoms can be permanent if not treated immediately. This problem should be seen within 24 hours by a spine specialist.

Numbness, pain or tingling that radiates into the arm or leg is also a source for concern and should be seen within a few days by a spine specialist.

High fever accompanied by back pain may indicate a possible infection of the spine and should be treated within 24 hours.

Rules of Thumb on Symptoms

Here’s an encouraging back fact: 80 percent of the time, back and neck pain is simply a result of strain or soft tissue injury. In many of these simple cases of back or neck strain, your condition will improve with specialized exercises, rest, and anti-inflammatory medicine. Other times, you may need to see a doctor, perhaps even as soon as possible. Briefly, here are some rules of thumb to keep in mind about your back or neck problems:

Trauma – If you fall down, are in a car accident, or do anything abrupt that may have fractured your back, go to a spine specialty clinic within 24 hours.

Radicular pain – Anytime you have back or neck pain that radiates down into your leg or arm, you probably need to be evaluated by a spine specialist within two to three days, especially if it is getting worse.

Persistent pain – If pain limited to the low back or neck area does not begin to subside after three days with anti-inflammatories and rest, then you probably need to be evaluated by a spine specialist. For example, if you first noticed back or neck pain on Monday, and it’s now Thursday, and it’s not getting better, it’s time to see a spine specialist to find out what is causing your problem.

Anytime you experience loss of control of your bowel or bladder, that is an EMERGENCY signal that you need to see a spine specialist THE SAME DAY. If you wait too long, you could suffer permanent paralysis of the nerves that control these functions.

Foot drop – If you notice that your toe is dragging as you walk, this is a DANGER SIGNAL for serious neurological problems. Again, if you delay, you could experience permanent damage. This problem should be seen within 24 hours by a spine specialist.

Weakness, numbness or pain that extends below a knee or elbow is a serious symptom. Go to a spine center within two days.