When Is Back Pain An Emergency?

Identifying Common Back Pain Causes & Symptoms

Back pain is incredibly frustrating. Millions of Americans suffer from it, impacting how they go about their everyday routine. Whether sitting, sleeping or walking, back pain makes life more difficult. Many people put up with the pain thinking it is only temporary, however, these aches sometimes serve as a warning for worse things to come. Chronic symptoms, along with a patient’s medical history, will determine whether their back pain has, or will, become a medical emergency.

What Are The Warning Signs Of Serious Back Pain?

Patients may be unaware that emergency back pain can be a result of conditions other than the pain itself. Therefore it is crucial to be familiar with the warning signs of something more serious.

  • Medical history. Patients who have had back problems in the past are often the ones that will likely have them again in the future. If someone has had a recent back injury and the pain returns, it may be a sign that he or she has suffered a spinal injury. Spine injuries are severe and do not typically go away on their own. If back pain has worsened with time, seek immediate medical attention to prevent it from increasing in severity or becoming permanent.
  • Bladder control. When back pain causes a loss of bladder or bowel control, it could mean that there is an infection or even a tumor that has developed on the nerve sac of the lower spine. The result is painful compression and growing weakness in the pelvic area. If these organs are not functioning correctly due to back pain, doctors will need to run emergency tests to identify the problem.
  • Spasms. Pain in the pelvic area is not always ongoing. When it occurs suddenly and goes away only to return later, it is a series of contractions that could be brought on by kidney stones. Back pain is a result of the kidneys trying to pass these stones. Blood in the urine will likely be present, and an emergency visit will be necessary.
  • Numbness. Frequent numbness to the legs, thighs, or other parts of the lower body could be an indicator of nerve damage to the spinal cord. Such symptoms require immediate medical attention because they can lead to permanent paralysis.
  • Fever. Some may be surprised to learn that fevers can result from back pain. Fevers are defined as the internal temperature of 101 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Because a fever is a sign of infection, it is possible for the two symptoms to be linked to the same spinal or neurological infection.   

When Can Back Pain Become A Chronic Condition?

Severe back pain may not always be the cause of overuse or genetic history. More often than thought, it can also be a warning sign of an underlying condition.

  • Cauda Equina Syndrome. This condition primarily affects what is known as the ‘saddle area’ of the lower body. Severe pressures to the lower nerve sac of the spine result in pain in the hips and pelvic region. Other symptoms include a loss in bladder and bowel control and recurring numbness or pain in the saddle area. If not treated, these symptoms can worsen or even become permanent. If the symptoms persist when a patient neglects treatment, the most severe cases can lead to paralysis.
  • Spinal Tumor. Pain in the neck or back from spinal tumors is typical. They develop in and around the spinal column. Symptoms also include neurological problems such as numbness in the arms and legs, fever, nausea, vomiting, and increasing back pain throughout the day. Doctors will need to perform a CT scan to locate the tumor. If these symptoms persist or worsen, emergency care will be required.
  •  Aortic aneurysm. Although not as common, pain associated with the back and stomach may stem from an aortic aneurysm. The aorta is a large artery located in the abdominal area that distributes oxygenated blood throughout the body. Inflammation enlarges the aorta and puts pressure on the stomach, causing pain in the abdominal area and the lower back. If untreated, this medical condition can cause ruptured blood vessels that cause internal bleeding. It is essential that the situation does not reach this stage because internal bleeding can be complicated to treat. If these symptoms develop and are ongoing, seek medical care.

People Tend To Ignore Back Pain Problems

There is a tendency for people to tolerate their back pain because they may not understand the potential for real problems that can come from it. While back pain can be temporary and mild, it is always a good idea to pay attention to the signs of something more. Remember, if the pain is unbearable, there is a reason for it, and the best thing to do is make an emergency visit to avoid further complications.

Visit A Freestanding ER In Case Of Severe Back Pain  

If you have back pain symptoms that appear to be an emergency, do not hesitate to come to The Emergency Center right away.  The Emergency Center provides up to 23 hours of Observation and offers 24/7 care with NO WAITING. Visit our freestanding emergency room in San Antonio, to get the care you need, or call us at 210-485-3644 for more information.

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The Emergency Center

San Antonio
11320 Alamo Ranch Pkwy
San Antonio, TX 78253

Phone: 210-485-3644