Spinal pain is an issue that can affect adults of all ages and can be caused by a number of conditions. In some cases, the pain can be very severe, impacting a person’s working and personal life. If this is the case then you should seek medical attention to discuss treatment options or potential surgery.
In this article, we will discuss spinal pain and how to tell if it is serious, focusing on the causes of back pain, treatments, and surgery options.
What are the main causes of Spinal Pain?
Spinal pain can be caused by a number of conditions that can develop naturally, or be brought about by an injury. Let’s take a look at some of the main conditions that can cause spinal pain and the possible causes.
- A Pulled Muscle(Strain) – Muscle and ligament strains are very common injuries that can be painful. Fortunately, these injuries can clear up in a short space of time without needing to visit a doctor.
- Sciatica – Sciatica affects the sciatic nerve which runs all the way down your back to your feet and occurs when there is pressure on the nerve or it becomes irritated. In most cases, sciatica can clear up within 4-to-6 weeks but it is possible that the symptoms can last longer. Sciatica may cause pain in your lower back, posterior, and the back of your legs, feet, or toes.
- A Slipped Disc– A slipped disc is when the soft, cushioned tissue that sits between your vertebrae (bones in the spine) pushes out of its outer lining. This results in pressure being placed on the surrounding nerves and can cause significant discomfort. The slipped disc can heal over time with plenty of rest, low-intensity exercise, and painkillers.
- Spondylolisthesis– Spondylolisthesis is a condition that is caused by vertebrae slipping forward, and applying pressure to the nerve. This is most common in the lower back and can be caused by spinal degeneration, genetics, trauma, tumors, and other spinal conditions. Severe spondylolisthesis can sometimes require surgery.
- Stenosis– Stenosis is the narrowing of the space within your spine, placing pressure on the spinal cord and surrounding nerves. It is most common in the neck and in the lower back. Spinal Stenosis in the lower back is referred to as Lumbar Stenosis.
- Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) – Ankylosing spondylitis(AS) is a long-term condition that results in inflammation in the spine and other parts of the body. The condition often develops in teenagers and young adults and is twice as likely to occur in women. Pain and other symptoms develop over time, usually over several months or even years, coming and going sporadically.
AS can improve over time but in some cases it can gradually get worse, requiring treatment.
How do you know if Spinal Pain is serious? – 7 Signs
In this section, we will focus on 7 signs that your spinal pain is potentially serious and requires a medical consultation.
1. The pain has lasted for over a week
For many conditions, back pain will subside after just a few days. If this is not the case and the pain has persisted for over a week then it would be advised to book an appointment with your doctor. Your doctor will examine the problem and assess what the cause of the pain is, recommending treatment and pain relief so the issue doesn’t worsen.
2. The pain spreads to other parts of your body
If your back pain is severe and has spread to other parts of the body, such as sharp pains in your legs, then this is another sign that your back needs attention. Pain in your buttocks, the back of the leg, feet, and toes could be a sign of sciatica. Your doctor can recommend ways to treat the issue and prevent it from becoming a long-term condition.
3. Other unwanted sensations
Back pain can sometimes be present alongside other sensations such as numbness, weakness, and tingling. If this is the case, then it points towards an irritation or damage to the nerves, caused by a number of possible spinal conditions. If these sensations continue for over a week, even when taking over-the-counter pain relief, then you should consider treatment.
4. The pain worsens if your body is in a certain position
If your pain increases when your body is in a certain position or if it is causing you to wake up in the middle of the night then this could be a sign that your back issue might be serious. Possible issues can include a fracture, an infection, nerve compression, or maybe a tumor.
5. If the pain is a result of an accident
If you have recently had an accident, even just a minor one and you are experiencing back pain, then this could suggest there has been damage to your spine. You should seek medical consultation immediately in order to prevent any lasting damage.
6. Bowel or Urination Problems
If you are suffering from back pain and at the same time experiencing a loss of control over urination or bowel movements then you should seek urgent medical attention and pay a visit to the emergency room. This is a very serious symptom and could point toward paralyzed nerves, especially if you are also feeling some numbness in your legs. Failing to get this treated right away could result in permanent paralysis.
Decompression surgery may also be required to relieve any pressure on your nerves.
7. Sudden Weight Loss
If you have noticed that you have suddenly lost weight even though there has been no change to your diet or exercise routine, then this could be a warning sign that something isn’t right. This is especially the case if your weight loss is combined with prolonged back pain and could be related to an infection or tumor.
Spinal Pain Surgery
If you have consulted your doctor and undergone a number of treatments and pain relief prescriptions then the final step could be surgery to try and permanently cure the problem. Spinal decompression and spinal fusion are the most common types of surgery for spinal conditions, however, this can result in a permanent lack of mobility in the back.
This is why new methods such as a TOPS System are now being recommended as an alternative for severe spinal stenosis surgery, and other painful conditions. Read more here.
Thank you for reading. We hope this article has been helpful and that your back pain clears up quickly so measures such as surgery are not necessary.