You might figure that a little back pain is normal, especially given your age and your lifestyle. You’ve probably even experienced a little minor back strain from time to time.
So, how do you tell whether your back pain is something that will probably heal on its own or that requires medical care?
Here’s a guideline you can use. Seek medical attention right away whenever:
1. You have a fever.
Fever is a sign that your body is trying to fight off an infection. Sometimes, kidney infections and other issues will masquerade as an injured back.
2. You were in an accident.
Trauma is one of the most common causes of serious back injuries. If you fell off a ladder while working on a client’s home or your delivery van was hit by a careless driver, you could have slipped discs or hidden fractures in your spine. A doctor can determine what’s going on with x-rays.
3. Your fingers or toes keep falling asleep.
Numbness and tingling — that “pins and needles” feeling that you sometimes get when the circulation gets cut off to your hands or feet — is a problem that shouldn’t be ignored. Pins and needles could indicate nerve problems in your back or neck caused by a slipped disc or some other issue.
4. You can’t control your bowels or bladder.
This is a cause for immediate concern. Any bowel or bladder dysfunction could be the sign of a serious condition involving the compression of your spinal cord.
5. One foot keeps dragging.
If one of your feet seems like it suddenly weighs too much and you find yourself dragging your foot or struggling to lift it high enough to take a step, you could have a serious nerve issue caused by a back injury.
Finally, if your back pain is waking you up at night (or keeping you from sleeping), interrupts your concentration at work or seems to be worsening, you should always see a doctor.
If your back injury was related to an incident at work, you may be entitled to have your medical expenses reimbursed and other workers’ compensation benefits.