7 Signs Your Back Pain Is More Serious Than You Think

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Sometimes, you can attribute back pain to the activities you undertake from day to day. In fact, when people are in their 20s and 30s, activities such as attending to children, overworking, exercising, and sitting for too long are said to be the leading causes of back pain. Back pain is so common that most people ignore it without realizing that it can be serious. Statistics show that an estimated 80% of adults will, at some point in their lives, experience back pain. 

With such high prevalence, it’s essential to know when the back pain requires more than rest and an ice compress. Back pain that’s associated with a particular activity will mostly go away within a few days. If it doesn’t, you may suffer an injury that requires a checkup and treatment. In addition, pain whose exact cause you can’t figure out and becomes persistent over time might be a sign that there’s more to it than you may think.  

Here are some of the signs that that pain on your back needs medical attention:

  1. Pain Doesn’t Go Away

If you have back pain that won’t go away even with pain medication, cold compress, or rest, you need medical attention, even when you’re sure the pain is from a strenuous activity you undertook. It could be minor muscle tears and sprain mainly caused by gradual overuse or a sudden muscle injury. Some of the reasons for this type of back injury are lifting incorrectly, or bending too quickly or for too long. It may also be a result of trying a new exercise movement that strains your back muscles and connective tissues. 

The severity of pain may vary from person to person as some people are more tolerant of pain than others. The lower back and the lumbar spine are more prone to such type of injury. If not treated, it may lead to debilitation for chronic pain. To be sure that it won’t lead to something more severe, you need to see a doctor.

  1. You Have Difficulty Moving

When your back pain is accompanied by difficulties moving about, this may be a sign of a spinal cord injury. It’s an injury to the nerves at the end of your spinal canal or any part of your spinal cord. It may result in a permanent alteration of sensation and strength, among other functions below the injury site. The spinal cord is responsible for controlling voluntary motor functions. 

The way you control your limbs after an injury to the spinal cord depends on the site of injury and its severity. The most common cause of spinal injury is trauma from things like falling, sporting and recreation activities, and impact from motor vehicle accidents.

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  1. Back Pain Accompanied By Inconsistency

Apart from controlling the motor functions, the spinal cord is also responsible for autonomic functions, including regulating digestion, as well as bowel and bladder movements. If you notice a change in your urination or bowel habits, this indicates there may be a reason for concern. This might signify severe nerve compression or, even worse, a spine infection, such as meningitis or discitis. These issues require urgent medical attention.

This compression of nerves is called cauda equina syndrome, and its main symptoms are urinary inconsistency and lower back pain. As the nerves get squeezed, their functionality is compromised, causing urine to leak uncontrollably. Other symptoms that may accompany back pain include numbness or tingling sensation in the legs or lower back, and weakness in the legs.

  1. You Experience Challenges Undertaking Everyday Activities

If your back pain inhibits your ability to do the usual tasks, it may be a sign that it could be more serious than you think. Experiencing difficulties while doing activities, such as rising from a sitting position, bending to tie your shoelaces, or walking up or down the stairs need medical attention. 

Apart from the physical pain, it can be frustrating being unable to do these things normally or without help. It may lead to psychological and emotional stress, anxiety, and depression, which can further affect your everyday life. Research has shown that back pain is among the most significant predictors of depression. This gives another reason for taking back pain seriously and treating it sooner rather than later to evade any other adverse condition.

  1. Difficulty Balancing Or Standing

Lower back, hip, or pelvic pain accompanied by difficulty maintaining balance, dizzy spells, or loss of spatial awareness may be a reason for concern. The noticeable symptoms include bumping your head more frequently than normal, falling forward or running into things. 

Also, if you notice that the pain on your back, especially the lower back, can’t allow you to stand for an extended period, it may be an indicator that there’s a bigger problem. If there’s inflammation of the vertebrae facet joints, you can experience pain in your lower back when standing. Medical experts believe that most back problems don’t arise from an injury of the spine itself. They’re commonly from sprains of the soft tissue, ligament, tendon, or muscle. However, back pain and difficulty standing could also be from spinal stenosis or degenerative disc disease. 

Degenerative disc disease stems from the breakdown of vertebrae, and it decreases spacing and irritates the nerves around them. As for spinal stenosis, there’s a narrowing of spacing in the spine, causing pressure on the nerves. Both cases affect your ability to stand.

  1. Fever And Chills

Fever, chills, and night sweats that accompany back pain could be a sign of a severe systemic disease. When these symptoms show up, together with high blood pressure and swollen lymph nodes, you should seek medical attention immediately.

When nerves and blood vessels in the cervical spine suffer an injury, you may experience flu-like symptoms accompanied by back pain. The condition is referred to as thoracic outlet syndrome. Experts believe it’s caused by a lack of proper neck support when sleeping, craning the neck forward, overuse and repetitive use, and whiplash. 

  1. Radiating Pain On Lower Buttocks And Leg

When you have a problem with your sciatic nerve, it causes sciatica. The sciatic nerve is the longest body nerve that starts from your lower back, to the hips and buttocks, and down to the back of the legs. It mainly affects only one side. It may be a result of muscle tension, herniated disc, or a narrowed spinal column. These issues are said to cause nerve compression that leads to numbness and pain on the area of the leg that has been affected. 

When the case is severe, you may also notice a change in bladder and bowel movements, and it calls for an emergency visit to the doctor. These factors may increase your chances of having sciatica:

  • Natural spine changes due to age
  • Sitting for long hours
  • Strenuous work that involves heavy lifting or driving for long hours
  • Obesity is said to increase pressure on the spine
  • Diabetes from how it affects sugar utilization in the body, risking sciatic nerve damage

Daily Habits That Can Help With Back Pain

Back pain can lead to untold amounts of discomfort, whether you’re recovering from a serious back condition or trying to alleviate pain from daily activities. There are a few things you can do daily to help reduce pain or keep it from worsening. It’s all about protecting your spine, strengthening your back muscles, relieving pressure on your back, and reducing strain.

  • Put a pillow under your knees when you sleep: If you sleep on your back, you put pressure on your back, but raising your legs slightly relieves it of this pressure. Placing a pillow under your knees is said to reduce the pressure on your spine by half. Using an orthopedic mattress can also help with sleeping posture.
  • Exercise your core: Regularly straining your core muscles may help reduce some of the back injuries, such as muscle spasms and strains. Working out your back and abdomen at least twice a week can help you develop a flexible and strong back.
  • Wear proper shoes: Wearing low-heeled shoes may help you manage back pain by reducing strain on your back. 
  • Straighten up: Improve your posture while sitting or standing to protect your spine from misalignment. A bad posture, like slouching your head forward, similar to someone on their phone or computer, strains your back and neck. This may cause an alteration in the spine architecture.
  • Move around: Avoid sitting or standing for long hours because it puts too much pressure on your spine. 
  • Avoid smoking: According to health experts, nicotine restricts the flow of blood by narrowing blood vessels. This may lead to blood not reaching the spine discs, causing them to dry out, rupture, or crack. Smoking is also said to reduce oxygen in the blood, reducing the amount of nutrients reaching the tendons and muscles in your back. This results in a weak and brittle back more susceptible to pulls and strains, resulting in back pain.
  • Avoid heavy loads: Lifting heavy weights improperly may lead to back pain. However, carrying heavy loads may also cause back injuries. Whether it’s a backpack or anything that feels heavy to carry, don’t do it for too long. Consider using a rolling cart whenever possible.

Final Thoughts

Your back is vital in connecting and supporting your head to the lower body. It’s flexible and strong, but also susceptible to injuries. Problems with your back can turn out to be severe and should never be ignored. Besides, back pain is uncomfortable and can inhibit you from carrying out daily activities as you should. Any back problem accompanied by the symptoms discussed above is severe and requires urgent medical care.