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Back Pain Red Flags: When to Seek Treatment and How Osteopathy Can Help

May 19, 2023

Back pain is a common ailment that can be caused by a variety of factors, including poor posture, muscle strain, or injury. While most cases of back pain are not serious and can be managed with rest and self-care, there are some instances where back pain can be a sign of a more serious condition. In this article, we will explore some of the red flags associated with back pain, answer some common FAQs about back pain and red flags as well as discuss the role of osteopathy in managing back pain.

What are ‘Red Flags’ in back pain?

Back pain red flags are signs or symptoms that may indicate a more serious underlying condition requiring further investigation. Some common red flags include:

Severe pain that does not improve with rest or self-care

If you are experiencing severe, persistent or unrelenting pain which does not improve with rest or self-care, it could be a sign of a more serious underlying issue. This could include a herniated disc, spinal stenosis, or a compression fracture. It’s important to seek medical attention to find out what is causing the severe pain you are experiencing.

Pain that is accompanied by weakness or numbness in the legs

Uninvestigated weakness or numbness may result in nerve damage if left untreated, so it’s important to seek prompt medical attention to assess the cause. Often back pain is accompanied by neurological symptoms such as weakness or numbness. Your doctor, osteopath or manual medicine practitioner can assess and guide you if you are concerned that your symptoms are being caused by nerve compression.

Loss of bowel or bladder control

Aberrations of bowel or bladder control is a serious red flag that should not be ignored. It could be a sign of a spinal cord injury or cauda equina syndrome. These conditions require immediate medical attention, so it’s important to seek emergency medical care if you are experiencing this symptom.

Back pain that is worse at night or wakes you from sleep

Another sign of potential serious underlying pathology that requires further investigation is unrelenting night pain or pain wakes you from sleep. Causes could include infection, a tumor, or a spinal fracture. It’s important to seek assessment and guidance from your medical care team and manual care such as osteopathy can help you to manage pain once serious causes have been excluded.

Pain that is accompanied by unexplained weight loss

It’s important to seek medical attention if you are experiencing unexplained weight loss in addition to back pain. Seeking assistance and medical care is important to rule out serious underlying conditions such as cancer or an infection.

If you are experiencing any of these red flags, it’s important to seek prompt medical attention to ensure that you receive the appropriate treatment for your condition. Assessment can rule out more serious causes of pain and provide peace of mind. In many cases, pain can be managed effectively with rest, self-care, and conservative treatment such as osteopathy. If you have ruled out serious underlying pathology and you are still experiencing persistent pain, contact your local osteopath to help investigate your pain further. Osteopaths are able to ascertain your medical history, assess of your areas of pain and review any scans and x-rays. Your osteopath can discuss the findings and suggest a treatment plan to address your areas of concern and provide appropriate advice. Osteopaths may assist by optimising your musculoskeletal function, improving your range of motion and flexibility as well as enhancing your quality of life.

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