8 Types of Low Back Pain that Mean You Should Visit Your Doctor

Back pain warning signOver 80% of the population will suffer from lower back pain at some point in their lives. Low back pain is a common complaint in medical offices and is a common issue causing many people to miss work and be unable to participate in daily life activities. Sometimes back pain is due to a pulled or strained muscle and many times will not require a trip to your doctor’s office. Other issues such as fractures, tumors and infections of the spine are very serious and need to be evaluated by a physician promptly.

Patients should see a doctor immediately if they experience low back pain as a result of severe trauma. Patients should also make an appointment with a doctor if low back pain is accompanied by any of the following: fever, loss of bowel or bladder control, serious trauma, numbness, unplanned weight loss, personal history of cancer, back pain that persists more than 6 weeks, or severe night pain.

Fever and Back Pain
Fever combined with back pain can indicate an infection in your kidneys or back. A primary care physician can determine if you need antibiotics to eliminate the infection.

Loss of control of your bowel or bladder and Back Pain
If you have back pain along with new incontinence, you could have a serious back condition causing pressure on the nerves that requires immediate medical care.

Serious Trauma and Back Pain
Trauma such as a car accident or falling down a flight of stairs can cause a fracture in your back. Seek immediate care from your physician or the emergency department.

Numbness or Tingling in Leg and Back Pain
Numbness on tingling in your leg and back pain could indicate nerve irritation or nerve damage. You could have a herniated disc or spinal stenosis. A doctor can prescribe medications, treatments or even surgery to help relieve the pressure on the nerves.

Unexplained weight loss and Back Pain
If you lose a lot of weight without changing your diet or activity level and have back pain, a doctor should order imaging and blood work to check for cancers or hormonal disorders.

History of Cancer and New Back Pain
If you have had cancer, onset of back pain could be a sign that cancer has spread to you spine. You should visit your physician for further evaluation.

Back Pain at Night
Pain in your back that causes you to lose sleep should not be dismissed. This could be a sign of spinal tumors or even cancer.

Back pain that lasts more than 6 weeks
Any pain that lasts more than a month or two should be evaluated more fully.

If you experience significant trauma and back pain, an evaluation in the Emergency Department is indicated. In most other cases, your primary care physician can evaluate your condition and begin treatment. . If he or she is unable to help with your condition he can refer you to a spine specialist.

For more information about low back pain, visit Spine-Health.com. Our spine physicians at Emory regularly contribute content to this website for not only our own patients, but for anyone searching for spine information.

Dr. Susan DreyerAbout Susan Dreyer, MD
Dr. Dreyer is an Associate Professor in the departments of Orthopaedics and Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation at Emory University School of Medicine. Dr. Dreyer specializes in non-operative spine care and focuses on helping patients achieve their best functional level. She has taught many national and international courses on spine care and spinal injections for sciatica and other causes of back and neck problems. She is also active in several professional societies. Dr. Dreyer started practicing at Emory in 1992.

 

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  • Ron

    i have had lower back pain going on 7 months . I have been precribed pain medicine but nothing seems to help.

    • Hi Ron,

      If the pain is not getting any better then it might be time to see a spine specialist. If you’d like to speak with one of our specialists, you can call 404-778-3350.

  • Marissa

    I have skolosist of the spine and it’s really bad. I was out doin fire wood and all of a sudden I have really bad pain up my back and right leg. It’s been hours still have it. I can’t sit or stand or significant bend down, nothing with out bad bad pain should I go back to my doctor?

  • Backpain

    Hi.My husband is having lower back pain,fever and abdominal discomfort..Meds didnt helped to lower his fever,but when I massaged his back,he sweats and his fever is gone in a few mins
    Whats his back pain could be?Please help
    We will go to the dr today but just want some info .

  • Angie N.

    I have lower Back pain and am feeling pretty feverish, but the thermometer says I don’t have a fever, but it also might be messed up. An I don’t have another one. should I go to the dr.? My forehead is feeling a lot hotter then usual an I have a headache.

    • Hi Angie, thanks for your message. Unfortunately, we cannot speak to your condition without seeing you in person, but someone from our team would be happy to contact you. If you would like to make an appointment with one of our physicians, please either fill out our appointment request form and a member of our team will follow-up with you, or call 404-778-7777 at your convenience.

  • abbie

    hi, i fell down a few stairs a couple of hours ago, my lower back and collarbone landed on the edges of the steps and i’m now experiencing back pain on my lower right back area, do i need to see a doctor about this or is it just bruising ?

    • Hi Abbie,

      Unfortunately, we cannot speak to your condition without seeing you in person, but someone from our team would be happy to contact you. If you would like to make an appointment with one of our physicians, please either fill out our appointment request form and a member of our team will follow-up with you, or call 404-778-7777 at your convenience.

  • suzanne

    Hi I fall down and hit the left side of my back the night it happen hurt so back every movement I could feel it so i when to doctor she says no bone has broken it’s just damage muscles but it been a week and it still pain so bad in the lower part of my back in the hip sometime my leg feel like it hurting too…please I ask for your advice …thank u

    • Hi Suzanne, thanks for your message. Unfortunately, we cannot speak to your condition without seeing you in person, but someone from our team would be happy to contact you. If you would like to make an appointment with one of our physicians, please either fill out our appointment request form and a member of our team will follow-up with you, or call 404-778-7777 at your convenience.

  • Cory Fox

    Hi i am an amateur boxer at age 15 recently i was body sparring and got knocked back into a wooden windowsill that stuck out of the wall the part of my back that i hit is mid to low back and i was experiencing alot of pain in this area however this was almost five weeks and the pain has not gone away i thought that it would have gone away on its own by now but no its still there the type of pain is like the feeling you get when your joints are stiff and need to be popped but alot worse should i see a doctor i dont know what to do as i can still go about my daily biusness but it is allways looming over me
    B

    • Emory Healthcare

      Hi Cory! Sorry to hear you injured your back sparring. Because the pain has continued for multiple weeks, it is probably a good idea to see a doctor. You can call 404-778-3350 to schedule an appointment.

  • Emory Healthcare

    Hsurc, if you are still vomiting and have a fever, we suggest you contact your primary care physician to set up an appointment. If your symptoms worsen before you can get an appointment, consider visiting the Emergency Department.

  • Paola

    hi I’ve been having back pain since last June. My friend keeps telling me that I really do need to go to the doctor because she thinks I have a UTI but when I do the research of what it’s like to have UTI I only fall under the category of the fact that my lower back hurts.

    • Emory Healthcare

      Hi Paola. Because your pain has lasted several months, we suggest you see your primary care physician or one of our non-operative spine specialists at Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center. You can call 404-778-3350 to schedule an appointment with our spine team. Thank you.

  • Eman Lim

    Hi, i would like to ask your opinion about my case. I experience back pain since august 2016 until now. I’ve gone to an orthopedic doctor. And i undergone x-ray test. When the result came out the doctor said it only myofascial pain symdrome. And the doctor referred me to physical therapy. But I am wondering that the pain is still not going away. Any suggestions or recommendations i will greatly appreciated it. By the way i am always experiencing stomach bloating.

    • Emory Healthcare

      Eman, we can’t provide our opinion of your case without seeing in person and performing an examination. Because you state you are still in pain, we suggest you return to the physician you saw August to let him or her know of your progress and hopefully he can adjust your treatment plan. We have spine physicians at Emory Spine Center that would be happy to see you as well. Call 404-778-3350 to schedule an appointment.

  • Rose Rodriguez

    Hello, so im 16 ,turning 17 april 20, and since late january i have had terrible lower back pain, it hurts to sit, its uncomfortable when i lay down and im stiff when i walk because of the pain. I dont fo any sports or activities that put a strain on my back. The pain started out if nowhere. And the pain is sometimes almost to unbearable but other times i feel it but it doesnt affect me too much. I told my gaurdian if i still feel it around my birthday I’ll go to the doctor, but tiday im hurting so bad. And someone said it was because of my weight but i havent gained any weight. And i know i shouldn’t look up my pain online, because I doubt i have a spinal tumor

    • Emory Healthcare

      Hi, Rose! Sorry to hear you are in so much pain. It sounds like it is probably time to see a doctor. You could start with your family physician or pediatrician. At Emory, we have specialists in pediatric orthopaedics that would be happy to see you for an appointment. To schedule an appointment with our physicians at Emory, please have your guardian call 404-778-3350.

  • Angelica Unzueta

    Hi, I’ve been having excruciating pain on my lower back, preferably on my left side, and the cause that triggered the pain was me sitting down bent over for a while and then it felt like a pinch to my lower back. I quickly stood up and the pain hurts to were I can not bend in any way and it leaves me very stiff to were I can not move anymore. The pain shoots down my leg, and the pain can last up to 3 days. One time the pain became very excruciating that I began to sweat, and became cold and pale, and past out. The pain hurts so much I literally can not move or it hurts. Do you think you may have any suggestions on what it might be or if I need to seek immediate care?

    • Emory Healthcare

      Angelica, sorry to hear you are in so much pain. It sounds like it is probably time to see a doctor. You could start with your family physician. At Emory, we have specialists in orthopaedics that would be happy to see you for an appointment. To schedule an appointment with our physicians at Emory, please call 404-778-3350.

  • Sheb

    hi… I had lower back pain last month.. Twice… At first I was able to manage the pain. But the second attack. Was unbearable that I was rushed to the ER… I was given ketorolac for pain relief… Had an X-ray but it seems that my spine is normal.. The doctor gave me muscle relaxant.. Had to take it 3x a day for 5days..had a warm compress for morning and night.. But the pain did not go away that soon.. I just want to ask if the pain I felt is due to strain on my muscle? The pain is actually moving from the sacroiliac part then It will move to my left upper part of my pelvis then sometimes it fell the pain in my scapula part.. I didn’t feel any pain that is radiating from my lower back to my legs… I’m just worried that it might come back again.. Though I see to it that I do walking at least 4-5x a week.. I am using binder to support my back, without it if I have prolonged walking or standing my back hurts a little.. Please help me ..i need some advice.. By the way I just started doing push ups.. Is this good for me? Thank you very much for the time… Hoping to get some response

    • Emory Healthcare

      Hi Sheb. Thanks for contacting us with your questions. It is difficult to give advice without being able to exam you in person. We recommend making an appointment with a non-surgical spine physician that specializes in caring for patients like you. If you would like to schedule an appointment at the Emory Spine Center, please call 404-778-3350.

  • Emory Healthcare

    Hi, Justin!

    Sorry to hear you fell and hurt your back. If the numbness and tingling continues for more than a day, you should schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. If you would like to see one of our spine specialists, please call 404-778-3350.

    Thank you for your comment.

  • Emory Healthcare

    Hi, Lourdes!

    It sounds from your comment like it might be a good time for you to see your doctor. If you have a family medicine doctor, make an appointment to see him or her soon. If you would like to see one of our spine specialists at Emory Spine Center, please call 404-778-3350.

    We are here to help.

  • Emory Healthcare

    Good morning, Nikki, it sounds like you might need to see your doctor about this new development. If you have a family medicine doctor, make an appointment to see him or her soon. If you would like to see one of our orthopedics or spine specialists at Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center, please call 404-778-3350. We look forward to helping you. Have a great day!

  • Emory Healthcare

    Kelton,

    We are sorry to hear your back is hurting. It’s difficult for us to give a recommendation without one of our physicians being able to examine you and understand where the pain is occurring and why. We would suggest making an appointment with your physician if the pain continues. We have specialists at Emory Orthopaedics & Spine if you want to see us. Just call 404-778-3350. We want you to get back to playing golf and doing the things you love.

    We are here to help. Have a great day!