When to worry about back pain (and when not to)

March 11, 2016

Here is a great article I just read which outlines in basic terms the key differences between back pain that is straightforward and musculo-skeletal in nature, and back pain that is coming from a more serious underlying condition. A lot of times when the pain is severe it can be extremely concerning, and this article helps explain a lot of what is going on.

Some key points:

People understandably assume that the worst back pain is the scariest. In fact, pain intensity is a poor indicator of back pain ominousness.

Herniated discs aren’t actually that big a deal, most back pain goes away on its own (even “chronic” low back pain! especially if you’re Australian), and simple muscle knots can be shockingly intense without ever being dangerous.

If you are experiencing true numbness around the groin and buttocks and/or failure of bladder or bowel control, please consider it serious — do not wait to see if it goes away. These symptoms indicate spinal cord injury or compression and require immediate attention.

The article also has a list of the more serious causes (cancer, infections, inflammatory arthritic conditions) and their features. The names of the conditions link to carefully chosen articles from good sources.


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