Back pain: Eight signs the condition is serious - recognise any of these symptoms?

George Morris Physio Wigan


Back pain: Eight signs the condition is serious - recognise any of these symptoms?

BACK PAIN afflicts many people in the UK. Certain signs could indicate there may be a more serious underlying issue at play, however.

Back pain is usually a product of poor posture or lifting something awkwardly. Pain in the lower back (lumbago) is particularly common, although it can be felt anywhere along the spine, from the neck down to the hips. In most cases the pain is not caused by anything serious. In certain cases however, back trouble may signify an underlying health condition.

According to the NHS, major warning signs include:

Numbness or tingling around your genitals or buttocks

Difficulty peeing

Loss of bladder or bowel control

Chest pain

A high temperature of 38C or above

Unexplained weight loss

A swelling or a deformity in your back

It does not improve after resting or is worse at night

It started after a serious accident, such as after a car accident

“These problems could be a sign of something more serious and need to be checked urgently,” warned the health body.

According to Bupa, numbness or tingling around a person’s bottom or genitals, difficulty passing urine, loss of bowel control and unsteady when walking may be signs that the nerves at the bottom of the spine are being pressed on.

This is called cauda equina syndrome and needs urgent treatment.

Establishing whether the pain is non-specific or specific usually determines how serious the condition is.

Non-specific back pain is far more common and doesn’t usually signify a more serious condition, explained Bupa.

“It’s probably often caused by a simple strain of the muscles, tendons or ligaments around your back, but no one knows for sure,” said the health body.

Specific back pain can signify a more serious underlying health issue. As Bupa pointed out, damage to parts of a person’s spine can be the cause of back pain.

Examples of this are:

A slipped (herniated) disc – when a disc bulges and puts pressure on your spinal nerves

A fracture – a crack or break in one of the bones in your back, perhaps due to osteoporosis

Inflammatory low back pain – caused by a condition such as ankylosing spondylitis. In this condition your immune system causes inflammation in the spinal joints and ligaments

In rare cases, back pain can also be caused by a serious condition such as an infection or cancer, but this is very uncommon, added the health body.

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