When is Back Pain Serious?

Back pain is usually non-serious and resolves within 2-6 weeks. Rarely, back pain should be considered an emergency, or needs further treatment before seeing a physical therapist. Here are some situations where you should seek immediate medical attention:

Trauma or Accident: If your back pain was caused by a slip or fall, or significant trauma such as a motor vehicle accident, you should have a medical evaluation to make sure there is not a fracture or instability before seeing a physical therapist.

Numbness in the Feet or Toes: Leg, foot, or toe numbness may be a sign that a nerve is pinched. Physical therapy can help with this, but if numbness is severe or progressing, you should see your physician.

Sudden or Progressive Weakness of Your Leg: Nerves in the lower back supply the muscles of your legs. Sudden or increasing weakness of the knees, ankles, or toes may be a sign that a nerve is pinched, and further medical evaluation is needed.

Loss of Bowel or Bladder Control: Sudden changes in bowel or bladder control can be a sign that there is pressure on the spinal cord, and is considered an emergency condition. See a physician right away if you experience these symptoms.


Saunders Physical Therapist