Back pain is so common among Canadians that many of us rarely give it a second thought. According to Statistics Canada, four out of five adults will experience at least one episode of back pain at some point in their lives. But how do you know whether that ache is more than you can handle alone?
The clinicians at Physiomed are experts in treating back pain and its associated symptoms. Although at-home remedies like ice packs and hot baths could be effective, the following red flags should never be ignored. Chronic back pain can be the result of something more serious, like a fracture, tumor or infection in the spine.
If your back pain is accompanied by any of the warning signs below, seek professional care right away.
Tingling or Numbness
If you have an odd sensation in your back, your first instinct might be to take an over-the-counter medication. Although painkillers might provide temporary relief, tingling or numbness could indicate nerve irritation or damage. The feeling will also be more severe than a typical back ache.
If that feeling of pins-and-needles persists for a few days, you need to get checked out as soon as possible. Your doctor may discover a herniated disk or even spinal stenosis, which is the narrowing of spaces within your spine. That tingling or numbness is the result of excessive nerve pressure. Left untreated, this prolonged irritation can lead to permanent disabilities.
A flu or common cold could certainly cause some achy muscles. But if your back pain comes with an unexplained fever, it’s time for some medical attention. Even if your doctor rules out an infection, it’s still important to get plenty of rest. Once you start to feel better though, it’s best to slowly get moving again. This is because resting for more than a couple of days could actually make your back pain worse. Low-impact exercises like gentle stretching or aquatic therapy can help you ease back into your daily activities.
If your back pain is the result of trauma, have your doctor check it out right away. Trauma can include a number of scenarios, including a car accident, falling from a height or a slip on the stairs. A seemingly small incident can actually result in a bone fracture. Your doctor will take an X-ray to detect any cracks. If none are found, your doctor will likely prescribe painkillers and recommend physiotherapy.
Loss of Bladder or Bowel Function
Cauda equina syndrome is a serious condition, symptomized by back pain. This pain, however, will be accompanied by a loss of bladder or bowel function. The condition occurs when nerve roots in the lower end of the spinal cord become compressed and paralyzed. This compression can be the result of a herniated disk, tumor or trauma to the spine.
Although cauda equina syndrome is rare, it can cause long-term damage if left untreated. If you’re having a hard time controlling your bowel and bladder movements -- along with severe back pain -- see your doctor right away.
Back aches that become more intense at night could be a sign of something severe. If the pain is keeping you up at night, you may be suffering from a sprain or disc degeneration. Ultimately, nighttime back pain should never be ignored. Your doctor will likely order blood tests or an MRI to detect an infection or tumour. In the meantime, massage therapy can ease muscle tension, improve circulation and help with relaxation.
Physiomed offers a variety of effective, yet non-invasive treatments to help address back pain. Our team of clinicians are trained to assess your posture, range of motion and overall strength. After hearing your doctor’s recommendations, we’ll create a customized treatment plan to provide long-term relief. Our most effective modules include chiropractic care, clinical conditioning and of course, physiotherapy.
For more information on treating back pain or to book an assessment, contact us here.