Sunday, April 21, 2024
HomeEditor PicksWhen Is Back Pain An Emergency

When Is Back Pain An Emergency

Should You Visit The Emergency Department For Back Pain

Back Pain Emergency

People with pain expect to leave the emergency department with some relief of their pain, and they are frequently disappointed. Getting good help for chronic pain is not what the ED is designed to do. Even if your back, neck or other pain is severe, theres only a small chance that its a medical emergency.

A checklist for visiting the ED:

  • Did you have an accident or trauma?
  • Have you been ill or had recent surgery?
  • Do you have unsafe practices like IV drug use?
  • Do you have unexplained fever?
  • Do you have dizziness, nausea or vomiting?
  • Are your legs weak, numb or unable to move?

If the answer to these questions is no, even if your back pain is very severe, you probably wont benefit from an emergency room visit.

Er Average Wait Times

ER wait times are approximate and provided for informational purposes only. If you are having a medical emergency, call 9-1-1.

The ER wait time represents the time it takes to see a qualified medical professional, defined as a Doctor of Medicine , Doctor of Osteopathy , Physician Assistant or Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner .

ER wait times represent a four-hour rolling average updated every 30 minutes, and is defined as the time of patient arrival until the time the patient is greeted by a qualified medical professional. Patients are triaged at arrival and are then seen by a qualified medical professional in priority order based on their presenting complaint and reason for visit.

Your Pain Wakes You Up At Night

Back pain from overuse or a small injury should feel better when you lie down and rest, Dr. Anand says. But if you cant find any comfortable position and/or you cant sleep because of the pain you need to call your doctor, he says. This could be from any number of conditions and diseases but its very serious, he explains. If your pain is combined with a loss of appetite, fever, or weakness or numbness, get seen immediately.

Read Also: How To Make Lower Back Stop Hurting

Typical Back Pain Symptoms

Pretty much every person has or will experience some back pain in their life, even if just for a few days. Our bodies rely on the back for many of our movements, which makes it more vulnerable to injury than other areas. The smallest incorrect movement of posture can cause some uncomfortable feelings. A typical, common back injury can come from lifting a heavy item without proper form or sleeping in the wrong position. There isnt a limit on the factors that could cause this. Youll know its not serious when you can still manage to handle most of your regular activities. They may not be as easy as expected but if you can complete the tasks, youre likely to make a full recovery. The other main trick to know if a back injury is serious is if it goes away after a few days. If the pain is manageable, give yourself a few days to see how it works out. If youve waited a few days and nothing has changed, it may be more serious.

People Tend To Ignore Back Pain Problems

Signs You Need Emergency Care for Chronic Back Pain

There is a tendency for people to tolerate their back pain because they may not understand the potential for real problems that can come from it. While back pain can be temporary and mild, it is always a good idea to pay attention to the signs of something more. Remember, if the pain is unbearable, there is a reason for it, and the best thing to do is make an emergency visit to avoid further complications.

Also Check: What Is The Best Mattress For Back Pain

When An Emergency Room Visit Is Warranted For Back Pain

When dealing with severe back pain, making a judgment call about whether to seek help in a doctors office or visit the ER may be difficult.

The following list describes the symptoms and signs related to conditions that may have resulted in spinal cord, cauda equina, or internal organ damage, which are typically considered as a medical emergency.

Other Types Of Back Pain

There are lots of other types of back pain, maybe you’ve lifted something, you’ve got a back strain or a sprain, maybe you’ve got a herniated disc. We do see lots of people with chronic back pain where it flares up. These are all things that could probably be treated through your primary care doctor or even through an urgent care. But in terms of the things that are really serious, those are the things I recommend watching for.


Recommended Reading: Why Is My Low Back So Tight

How Often Does Your Back Hurt

While backache is the first sign of physical fatigue, you should know that this nagging or excruciating pain can emanate from a variety of underlying causes including progressive spinal diseases or any infection. If your pain doesnt go away or intensifies with time, then it needs to be taken seriously.

First and foremost, dont ignore the nagging feeling that you experience while having back pain. Focus on your condition and observe the signs causing physical distress. Keep a watchful eye out for the following symptoms that may inform you that its time to visit your specialist!

When Back Pain May Be A Medical Emergency


The underlying causes for most occurrences of back pain are non-emergent, but the intense pain and related symptoms often elevate anxiety and prompt a visit to the emergency room . While back pain is typically treated in a primary care setting or by a musculoskeletal specialist, physicians are often cautious and look for warning signs of neurologically impairing or life-threatening causes. These causes are rare, but if present, they are considered a medical emergency and warrant immediate treatment to preserve back and/or leg function.

Though rare, acute cauda equina syndrome is a serious medical emergency. It usually requires immediate medical attention. Watch Cauda Equina Syndrome Video

Back pain is considered the most common musculoskeletal cause for emergency room visits and typically involves individuals aged 18 to 65 years.1,2

This article provides a comprehensive guide to when back pain may indicate a medical emergency and the associated red-flag symptoms to watch out for.

Don’t Miss: What To Do For Dog Back Pain

Treatment For Penis Pain

  • Ice packs can assist with alleviating pain in minor wounds
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers can assist with alleviating pain in minor wounds
  • Over-the-counter skin balms applied to the skin can decrease side effects of tingling and redness
  • Try not to disturb cleansers and cleansers
  • Attempt to return the prepuce to the ordinary position

Er Or Not: Severe Back Pain

Should you go to the ER for back pain? In this episode of ER or Not, emergency room physician Dr. Troy Madsen details the two symptoms you should be looking for that could be signs of something requiring immediate emergency care. The second one might surprise you.

May 11, 2018

Recommended Reading: Does Aleve Help With Back Pain

Don’t Miss: Which Mattress Is Better For Back Pain

Blood In Your Stool Or Urine

Blood shouldnt ever be found in your stool or urine, so even if your symptoms dont require a trip to the ER, its important to make an appointment with your physician as soon as possible to determine the source and decide on a treatment plan. Blood in the urine is usually caused by some kind of infection such as a urinary tract or kidney infection or kidney stones, says Stanton. When it comes to stool, its often benign, but it can be the sign of something very dangerous. The number one cause is hemorrhoids followed by fissures, infections, inflammation, ulcers, or cancer. If you have a little blood with no other symptoms, make an appointment to talk with your doctor.

Head to the ER ifyou have large amounts of blood in your stool or urine, or if you have blood in your stool or urine in addition to other symptoms such as a fever, rash or fatigue, intense pain, or evidence of a blockage.

Also Check: Aleve Or Advil For Back Pain

Back Pain: Discharge Instructions

Different Types of Back Pain

Back pain is pain in the muscles or bones of the back caused by injury, poor posture, job-related strain or poor body movement. Often, these injuries are some of the most painful and difficult to treat because they involve many muscles and nerves.

Remaining active is the best way to improve your back pain. It reduces back spasms and prevents loss of strength in the muscles. Long periods of bed rest are not advised.

If the pain is severe, bed rest may be needed for one day only. While lying in bed, the most comfortable position may be to lie on your side with your knees bent and a pillow between the knees. Or, you can lie on your back with a pillow below your knees and behind your neck/head.

Heat: Apply heat to the affected area for 10 minutes at a time as needed. Be careful not to burn yourself.

Pain medication: If medication is needed, taking four times a day is better than taking medication once when the pain is severe. Pain medications we recommend include acetaminophen and/or ibuprofen . However, the physician may recommend other pain medication for you or provide a prescription. Please take all medication as directed.

Exercise: Continue doing light exercises and activity, such as walking. Do not perform exercises which involve bending and/or twisting of the back while you are still recovering. If certain activities make your back pain feel worse, do not continue.

Ensure you follow-up with your family doctor for further examination and reassessment of your pain.

You May Like: How To Release Lower Back Pain

When You Should Go To The Er

Sometimes back pain just can’t wait. For example, if you were in a major car accident, or fell from a dangerous height, you want to check for any fractures, ruptures, and dislocations. And while it’s rare, lower back pain can be a symptom of more serious neurological issues, infection, cancer, and other worrisome conditions.

So get to an ER ASAP if any of these situations are true for you:

  • Have back pain associated with serious trauma
  • Have cancer or have a history of cancer
  • Have HIV/AIDs or are taking immunosuppressive drugs
  • Have trouble going to the bathroom or can’t hold your urine or stool
  • Are experiencing neurological dysfunction like leg weakness or numbness
  • Lose sensation around the groin area
  • Have a fever in associated with your back pain
  • Have back pain that’s worse when lying down

When To Go To The Er For Abdominal Pain

Abdominal pain can signify many potential problems with a wide range of severity. People young and old can require a trip to the ER for abdominal pain. Severe pain, especially pain that is sudden, usually indicates that you should seek medical attention.

Seek medical attention if you experience:

  • Fever over 101 degrees
  • Pain that spreads to the groin or back
  • Pain that does not go away within a few minutes or hours
  • Blood in stools or urine, or stools which are black and tarry
  • Blood in vomit

You May Like: Aleve Lower Back Pain

Don’t Miss: What Causes Back Pain At Night

Symptoms That Warrant A Trip To The Er

It can be hard to tell when your best bet is to rush to the emergency room.

When you wake up in the middle of the night with an alarming symptommaybe its a high fever or splitting headacheits hard to know whether to rush to the emergency room or not. You dont want to overact, but you definitely dont want to underreact either. So how do you know when that stomach pain needs to be treated ASAP or if that numb feeling can wait until morning to deal with? We spoke to Ryan Stanton, MD, a board-certified emergency physician and spokesman for the American College of Emergency Physicians to find out.

Going To The Emergency Room For Back Pain


Everyone experiences back pain on occasion, but there are cases that may require going to the emergency room or ER. For some individuals, back pain is just an annoyance. However, for others, it can be excruciating and disabling. Most back pain, including severe back pain, goes away on its own within a couple of weeks. Surgery is often not needed for back pain and is usually only considered in cases where other treatment options are not effective.

Also Check: Can Back Pain Cause Migraine Headaches

When Is Back Pain An Emergency

Seeking help for back pain can be a daunting prospect whether youre a long-term sufferer or its a relatively new experience for you. Its likely that your first port of call will be your GP, or if youve seen a specialist in the past perhaps your first thought is a local osteopath or chiropractor, but how do you know when your back pain has become a medical emergency?

The spinal cord carries nerves that affect everything from motor impulses from the brain to muscles, to sensory information from every part of the body to the brain. The spinal cord is protected by the vertebrae and discs in our spine to prevent direct injury to the cord, but if injury does occur whether over time or as a sudden trauma this can begin to affect vital bodily functions and can be classified in certain circumstances as a medical emergency.

Visit A Freestanding Er In Case Of Severe Back Pain

If you have back pain symptoms that appear to be an emergency, do not hesitate to come to The Emergency Center right away. The Emergency Center provides up to 23 hours of Observation and offers 24/7 care with NO WAITING. Visit our freestanding emergency room in San Antonio, to get the care you need, or call us at 210-485-3644 for more information.

The Emergency Center

You May Like: What Causes Nerve Pain In Lower Back

When To Go To The Er For Chest Pain

Chest pain is always significant, and should never be ignored. Not all chest pain is related to a heart problem. For example, heartburn can sometimes mimic the symptoms of a heart attack. Chest pain that lasts a few seconds before going away may not be related to a heart problem, and is usually is not a cause for concern.

However, if you are uncertain whether your chest pain is serious or not, its best to be safe and seek medical attention.

Chest pain is often indicative of a heart attack, so be familiar with the following warning signs.

Heart attack warning signs:

  • Chest pain that is not relieved by a change in position
  • Chest pain that spreads to the arms, neck, jaw, or back
  • Chest pain that produces a squeezing, heavy pressure sensation

If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, call an ambulance immediately.

Also Check: How Much Advil Can I Take For Back Pain

Waiting For A Doctors Appointment Later In The Week


If back pain is tolerable and does not cause alarming symptoms or signs, it may be safe to wait for a doctors appointment later in the week or by the following week. It is important not to ignore a back problem evaluating and treating back pain at the earliest can help prevent the problem from becoming chronic. Chronic back conditions can be more challenging to treat.

You May Like: How To Decrease Lower Back Pain

When Does It Call For Emergency Attention

It is important to notice the time frame, if pain doesnt go back in 48-72 hours after an injury, creeps on gradually or if increases over time. In such circumstances you might be heading towards a serious condition. Back pain shouldnt be ignored in case of a severe accident which may result in a permanent disability.

Spinal Metastasis A Low Back Pain Emergency

  • Known cancer + new back pain = spinal metastases until proven otherwise!
  • Time is Limbs: Spinal metastases are one of the most common causes of cord compression. Pre-treatment neuro status predicts outcome for this emergency.
  • Workup:
  • X-ray to look for compression #, soft tissue changes, blastic/lytic lesions, pedicle erosion
  • Consider testing ESR and CRP, and calcium profile if signs are consistent with hypercalcemia
  • Give dexamethasone as soon as mets are suspected if the patient has neurologic symptoms. Consider bisphosphonate* and calcitonin if patient is hypercalcemic, or if you suspect compression # or bony metastasis.
  • Get an urgent MRI if there are symptoms of cord compression. If there are hard neurologic findings, MRI is needed within 24 hours. If the x-ray findings are consistent with mets, but there are no neuro findings, an MRI should be done within 7 days.

*Bisphosphonates may decrease bone resorption in patients with metastatic disease to the bone, and relieve pain better than placebo.

Also Check: What Kind Of Soap In Bed For Back Pain

Concerned About Your Back Pain Symptoms We Can Help

Most back pain goes away on its own. But if your back pain has been lingering for more than two weeks without improvement, its been coming and going for some time, or if youre experiencing any alarming symptoms, dont delay the care you need. After all, its much easier to take care of yourself when you can move without pain.

Think TRIA Neck and Back Strengthening Program may be right for you? Schedule a consultation.

Not ready for an intensive physical therapy program? Start with physical therapy.

How Is Back Pain Diagnosed

Back Pain The Urgency Room an educational care video

Your health professional will first assess your back pain. They may ask questions including:

  • When did your back pain begin?
  • What activities were you doing differently to normal before your back pain started?
  • How would you describe the pain? Is there tingling or numbness?
  • What makes the pain better or worse?

If your pain doesnt settle after a few weeks or starts getting worse, ask your doctor or other health care professional about other management options. You may be referred for tests if there is reason to suspect a more serious cause for your back pain.

In most situations, imaging such as X-ray, CT or MRI scans are not helpful unless there is an obvious injury or strain.

Unnecessary tests can be expensive, and many investigations will show changes in your spine that reflect the normal passage of time, rather than damage to your spine.

Recommended Reading: How To Fix Tight Lower Back Muscles


Most Popular