Many of us have at some time in our life experienced a degree of back pain, but how likely is it that we will bother to do anything about it? Not very likely, appears to be the answer. Although back pain is one of the most common conditions that a physician will treat on a daily basis, many people seem reluctant to seek expert help. For example, a telephone survey of North Carolina residents in 1996 found that only 39% of people with back pain sought medical help.
This could be down to the fact that in many cases, there is remarkably little that conventional physicians can do to help. In the case of chronic low back pain, the condition is not usually serious and X-rays or MRI scans are of little use.
But even though conventional medicine can’t help much in tackling chronic back pain, that doesn’t mean you should resign yourself to suffer indefinitely from what can be a painful and debilitating condition. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that skilled manipulation of the spine can significantly relieve the discomfort, so it can be a good idea to consult a reliable chiropractor if you are suffering persistent lower back pain.
Of course, there are times when ignoring back pain is a big mistake. Sometimes it doesn’t signal just muscle tightness or a herniated disc, but is actually a symptom of something much worse. So, what should you look out for?
A good rule of thumb is to check whether there are any other symptoms beside the back pain. For example, numbness around the groin and buttocks could be a sign of a serious condition like spinal compression or a spinal cord injury, and you should treat it as an emergency, particularly if you have been involved in a violent accident.
Other things to look out for are general feelings of being unwell, such as flu-like symptoms, joint stiffness elsewhere in the body, rashes, digestive problems, sore eyes or unexplained fevers and chills. These symptoms can be an indication of a spinal infection or inflammatory arthritis of the spine or pelvis.
If a light tapping of your spine causes pain or if you have any sort of incontinence or pins and needles in your legs, whether this comes on quickly or gradually, it is important to consult a physician, as you may be suffering from a pinching of the lower spinal cord known as cauda equina syndrome. Though back pain is rarely a sign of malignancy, it can in rare cases be indicative of certain cancers.
In most cases, back pain can be managed with the help of painkilling medication and ideally, a good chiropractor, but if you have any of the symptoms described above, or you need reassurance that there is nothing more serious going on, you should consult a physician to put your mind at rest.