Back pain: Five questions to determine if you need medical help

Published April 24, 2018

Michael Weaver, DO, physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist

By Michael Weaver, DO, Physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist

Almost everyone will experience back pain sometime in their lives. It’s one of the most common reasons people go to see their doctor. With the arrival of spring and people starting to get outdoors more for exercise, gardening and spring cleaning, we often see a peak in back pain problems.

If you have back pain, but you’re not sure whether it’s serious enough to see a doctor, here are five questions you should consider to determine if a medical evaluation is needed.

  1. Is it new or existing pain? If the pain has been escalating over time and is not getting better, it may be time to seek medical advice. The earlier we intervene, the quicker we can help you recover and prevent it from becoming a chronic problem.
  2. Have you tried routine measures like rest, ice/heat and anti-inflammatories? For new back pain, try these at-home therapies first to get relief. If you’ve still seen no improvement, consider medical evaluation.
  3. Are you having abnormal sensations in one or both legs? Numbness or a tingling pins and needles sensation that involves your feet or legs may indicate a more serious problem like a pinched nerve or slipped disc. Your doctor can help you determine the source of your symptoms.
  4. Are you experiencing bowel or bladder problems? Bowel or bladder problems like trouble urinating or having accidents combined with worsening back pain are indicators that you should be medically evaluated.
  5. Do you have weakness in one or both legs? If you are noticing that you are dragging a foot when walking, or you are having trouble lifting your legs or clearing a curb, seek medical advice. You may have a more serious problem like a disc irritating a nerve.

Treatment for back pain is patient specific. However, no matter the source of your pain, we will always seek out the most conservative measures first, such as rehabilitation, activity modification, anti-inflammatories, followed by injections. Surgery is always a last resort, unless you have a more serious, acute problem.

Suffering from Back Pain? We Can Help.
Don’t wait! The specialists at the Comprehensive Spine Program can get you in quickly for evaluation and treatment. For appointments, call 800.922.0000, or learn more at