Anytime we feel pain in our backs or necks, it’s a cause for concern. After all, what would we do without our spine?
There are usually two groups of people when it comes to reacting to back pain. There are those who ignore the pain and hope that it goes away, and those who are nearly panic-stricken, imagining that their lower back pain means cancer or that they have tumors, or some other serious health problem.
Neither one of these extremes is usually the best answer.
Common sense should tell you that if you have been doing a landscaping project all weekend and your back is sore or tight on Monday morning, then yes, you most likely went over your physical limits and the pain will subside in a day or two.
However, there are other signs that should make you sit up and take notice.
When you consider that only about 1% of all back-pain complaints are due to serious health issues, you don’t need to jump to that conclusion right away, however….
What is the biggest back pain mistake you don’t want to make? Ignoring a potentially serious problem.
Special note to women: Back pain is sometimes just a sign that your monthly cycle is about to start, but don’t discount all back pain as simply “that time of the month.” Low back pain causes for females is as similar as it is for males when the warning signs are the same.
Four Dangerous Warning Signs
There are 4 red flags that you should never ignore. To do so means you risk either making a simple problem worse, or it could mean you are ignoring a serious health problem.
Warning Sign #1 – The Pain Interferes with Your Life
If you find that you are barely making it through your day, using heating pads, ice packs, changing position frequently (standing, sitting, lying down) and can’t wait until you get home, so you can lie on the sofa, you need to see your chiropractor ASAP.
You could have any number of things wrong, but any pain that is serious enough that it causes an interruption in your normal daily activities should be investigated.
A pulled muscle can quickly turn into a herniated disc. Some herniated discs take months and months to heal, if they heal at all. Without proper treatment, you are risking permanent nerve damage.
A sore back after playing sports with your kids is one thing. Pain that doesn’t go away after a weekend of rest should not be ignored.
Warning Sign #2 – The Pain Has Been Ongoing for More than 4 Weeks
If you have ever had back pain then you know that it can suck the life right out of you for days, sometimes even a few weeks! While back pain can be serious, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s deadly. Consider a charley horse. These are incredibly painful, but they aren’t serious.
However, if you have had a chronic back ache for more than 4 weeks and nothing you do (or don’t do) seems to make it stop or if it stops for a short period of time but comes back quickly, it’s time to see your local chiropractor.
Let’s face it, our bodies are amazing when it comes to healing but if something hasn’t healed in 4 weeks or the problem returns again and again, it needs to be looked at by a professional.
Again, even ongoing pain doesn’t mean that there is necessarily something ominous going on, it could mean that your body just needs some help to set it on the path towards healing. To ignore it, however, could mean that you are risking more serious damage down the road.
Warning Sign #3 – The Pain is Getting Worse or Isn’t Improving
Unexplained pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong. This doesn’t always mean something is seriously wrong, but when you have low back pain, it’s time to listen to your body and give it a break from your normal activities.
The time to see your chiropractor is when resting for a few days or changing your activities for a few weeks isn’t helping. If the pain is getting gradually worse, or even if it stays the same but is persistent and doesn’t improve, you need to be looked at by a specialist.
Chiropractors are experts in the musculoskeletal system of the body. They don’t just treat the symptoms by giving you pain meds or a nice massage, they look for and treat the root of the problem.
Warning Sign #4 – Your Back Pain Also Has One of the Following:
There are a few signs that, when added to low back pain, could mean you have a more serious problem. If you have unexplained low back pain and any of the following, see your chiropractor ASAP.
- Incontinence or difficulty urinating
- A numbness around the groin or buttocks area
- Any serious accident, fall, or collision that might have fractured your spine
- Unexplained weight loss
- Unexplained chills or fever
- If you are over 55, especially if you have other health problems, such as diabetes
- If you are 20 or younger
- If you have HIV, use recreational drugs or take steroids
- A general feeling of being unwell
- A family history of autoimmune diseases
- Weakness, tingling, or numbness in both legs
- A toe that seems to drag on the ground
If your low back pain is accompanied by any of the above, you need the help of a professional. Don’t wait to see if things improve.
Worst Case Scenarios
Keep in mind that the following conditions are not common but do occur.
- Spinal Infection- This can go undetected for a long period of time. Most people experience a sore spot on their back, have a deep, steady pain, and sometimes have a fever.
- Cancer- There are many types of cancer that can cause back pain, but most have the same symptom(s); pain that grows steadily worse, doesn’t lessen no matter the activity or position, is worse at night and after a period of time, standing becomes incredibly painful.
- Spondylitis- This is an inflammation of the spine. This is related to a form of spinal arthritis and can cause pain that is intermittent, making it hard to find in the early stages. The pain generally starts in the lower back, then moves up the spine and becomes worse with each occurrence.
- Abdominal Aneurysm- Usually occurs in people over 55, heavy smokers or diabetics with a risk of heart disease. Pain throbs in sync with the heartbeat.
- Peripheral Arterial Disease- This is an obstruction of blood as it flows through the arteries. It causes painful cramps in the calves, thighs, or hips, coldness in one leg or foot, and back pain when walking.
- Lumbar Spinal Stenosis- This is a narrowing of the space around the spinal cord, which puts pressure on the nerves. Common symptoms are increased pain when walking downhill and a heavy feeling in the legs. Pain is reduced when you lean forward at the waist, similar to leaning on a grocery cart.
How Do You Know if Back Pain is Serious?
You don’t until you receive a diagnosis from your chiropractor.
What if I Have Back and Hip Pain or Back and Shoulder Pain?
Chances are that the two are related. Sciatica often causes pain in the back and hip while shoulder pain is sometimes a secondary reaction to back pain. Because your back or neck hurts, you use your shoulders more or sit in an awkward position in an attempt to relieve the pain, which can make your shoulders hurt. You should see your chiropractor to determine the root cause.
Can Low Back Pain Mean Cancer?
We hate to talk about the Big C, but let’s face it, the Big C sometimes happens. Can low back pain mean cancer? Possibly but unlikely. Is low back pain a sign of cancer? Not usually. In fact, most people with cancer experience upper or middle back pain. Remember that the majority of people with back pain do have anything serious, they simply need a low back pain treatment plan from their chiropractor.
Even these warning signs are not 100%, written in stone that you have a more serious health problem, just as the absence of these warning signs is not a guarantee that you are a healthy individual, however, when it comes to your health, isn’t it better to err on the side of caution?
At Better Health Alaska Chiropractic and Rehab, we understand back pain better than anyone else. We have created a specialized treatment that has helped thousands of people with back pain called The Alaska Back Pain Protocol. Call us to determine if you are a candidate for this highly successful procedure.
Our friendly staff will be happy to check your insurance for you and if you have no insurance, you should read this article. Call one of our 4 locations today to make an appointment. Don’t let back pain keep you on the sidelines!