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When To Go To Emergency Room For Back Pain

Leg Weakness And Back Pain

When Should I Go To The Emergency Room For Back Pain?

Another serious condition that you should see a back injury doctor for is cauda equina syndrome. One of the main symptoms of this condition is progressive leg weakness.

What happens when you have this condition is that there is a severe compression of the nerve sac in your lumbar spine.

There are a few ways you could get cauda equina syndrome.

You could have a previously undiagnosed spinal condition. An infection could also be the culprit. And, as usual, you could have injured your spine somehow.

Treatment for cauda equina syndrome involves immediately surgical intervention. Doctors will do what they can to decompress the pressure on your lumbar nerve sac. Get diagnosed quickly at an urgent care clinic to see if thats what you need.

The Two Types Of Back Pain

But while back pain is very real and can be quite debilitating, the good news is that most cases of back pain are mechanical or non-organicmeaning they are not caused by serious conditions but rather things like a sports injury or bad posture. However, there are times when back pain can indicate an underlying issue that needs immediate attention, says Neel Anand, MD, professor of orthopaedic surgery and director of spine trauma at Cedars-Sinai Spine Center in Los Angeles. Its important to know the difference between I overdid it at the gym pain and bad pain, he says. Back pain that doesnt go away or start to feel better after a few days, intensifies, or is excruciating is always a bad sign and needs to be taken seriously. Call your doctor right away.

What Should You Do Advice From A Physical Therapist

Its unusual to have a Physical Therapist in the Emergency Department. PTs are good at listening, explaining pain and helping you to problem solve what to do at home.

When I see people in the ED, this is what I suggest:

  • self management like heat/ice for symptom relief
  • If meds are appropriate, use them if you have pain, but theyre not needed if the pain is tolerable
  • Progressively increase activity as you are able
  • Follow up with a PT
  • In the absence of trauma or true neurological loss there arent many good reasons to go to the emergency room.

    Trauma doctors are not trained in pain management, and with the opioid medication situation causing them to prescribe more cautiously than they used to, there is a good chance you will still leave with your pain unchanged.

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    Sudden And Severe Headaches

    Most headaches come on gradually, and if youre paying attention to your body, you can stop the headache from getting worse. Serious headaches come on quickly and are extremely intense.

    If you would describe your headache as the worst headache of your life, you should go to an emergency room. It could be a sign of a life threatening condition.

    You’ve Been In Pain For Over A Week

    Should I Go to the Emergency Room with my Back Pain ...

    Most back pain will subside after a few days, but if you’ve been experiencing pain for over a week, then it’s time to call a doctor. Your doctor will perform any examinations or tests required to help get to the bottom of your pain before it could become a bigger problem. As is the case with many health conditions, prevention and addressing problems early is key.

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    Secure Your Spot In One Of Our Urgent Care Facilities Or Emergency Rooms

    Acute pain occurs abruptly and is a physical symptom of an injury, such as an ankle sprain, or an infection, such as strep throat. Although it doesn’t typically last long, it can be quite severe and uncomfortable, leading patients to seek relief quickly.

    But should that pain relief be sought in the emergency room? Here’s how to assess whether to visit an ER for acute pain.

    Blood In Your Stool Or Urine

    Blood shouldn’t ever be found in your stool or urine, so even if your symptoms don’t require a trip to the ER, it’s 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, it’s 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 if…you 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.

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    Back Pain Is More Common Than You Think

    Does your back hurt? Youre not alone. Over half of American adults report having back pain every year and its estimated that over 80 percent of people will experience a problem with back pain during their lives, according to the American Chiropractic Association. And were not just talking aches and pains, back issues can be serious. Low back pain is the single leading cause of disability worldwide and is the second most common reason for visits to the doctors office, outnumbered only by upper-respiratory infections, according to the most current Global Burden of Disease report published in The Lancet.

    Er Or Not: Severe Back Pain

    When to Go to the Emergency Room for 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



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    You Recently Injured Your Back

    If you are in a car accident or other serious event, its common practice to get your back and neck checked out but many people dont realize they can sustain serious injuries from less drastic events. If your pain is far more than youd expect, if it feels worse over time instead of better, or is incredibly painful, get it checked out, even if you think its minor, Dr. Anand says. Whenever you directly injure your back its possible to have a spinal injury. Another possibility is a pathological fracture where a tumor has weakened your spine and then it fractures during a relatively small event, he explains. Sometimes this type of back pain is the way people learn they have cancer, he adds.

    Who May Be Prone To Back Pain From Medical Emergencies

    While a serious medical condition can affect anyone, some individuals are more prone to these problems due to their underlying health conditions, physical characteristics, and lifestyle habits.

    This list outlines the groups of people most prone to back pain from medical emergencies:

    • The young and the elderly. The age of the individual is an important initial consideration when diagnosing back pain. Those less than 18 years or more than 50 years of age are typically at a higher likelihood of serious conditions as the cause for the back pain and typically need immediate care when symptoms occur.
    • Tumors and infection occur with higher frequency in both these age groups.1
    • Younger individuals are at increased risk of spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis.1 If these conditions are severe, they can affect the neural elements of the spine, causing pain and disability.
    • Elderly individuals are more susceptible to abdominal aortic aneurysm.3
    • Older individuals may sustain fractures, including pathologic fractures, even with minor trauma.1
  • The immunocompromised. Reduced immunity or a weakened immune system can make individuals susceptible to specific spinal conditions. Examples of the various causes of reduced immunity and the resultant back pain conditions that are likely to occur are outlined below1:
  • A history of intravenous drug abuse, and/or recent bacterial infection, such as pneumonia or urinary tract infection, may pose an increased risk for spinal infection.
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    First A Review Of Spine

    Because back and neck pain are so common, you may downplay your symptoms. But if you develop any of the following emergency signs, you should see a doctorimmediately:

    • Loss of bowel and/or bladder function
    • Worsening or disabling spine pain, such as in the neck, mid back, low back
    • Arm and/or leg weakness, pain, numbness, or tingling
    • Saddle anesthesia
    • Difficulty with balance or walking
    • Difficulty controlling hands for fine motor control

    Its also important to see a doctor if youve sustained a head or other bodily injury, such as may result from a car crash or sports accident. Even if you think your injury is minor and/or didnt involve your spine, a doctors evaluation can determine if youve sustained a spinal injury.

    When To Go To The Er For Chest Pain

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    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.

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    Certain Medical Conditions Accompanied By Back Pain May Require An Er Visit

    For individuals with the following medical conditions, back pain may indicate a more serious issue. If you are experiencing severe or chronic lower back pain and have any of these medical conditions, you should visit an emergency department:

    • Any recent injury or trauma, especially in the elderly
    • History of cancer
    • Recent immunosuppression, either from surgery or prescribed drugs

    Questions To Ask Your Doctor

    Whether you’re seeing your primary care doctor or sitting in the emergency department, a clinician is going to tell you what they think is the best path for your treatment. They might suggest certain diagnostic tests, medication, or action steps based upon their understanding of the issue. But it’s important to remember that health care is a team effort requiring the participation of the patient: you. MCG experts highly suggest that you ask questions so that you and your clinician can make empowered, informed decisions together. Here are some questions that you can bring with you to your clinic or hospital visit:

    • What is this test for?
    • How many times have you done this procedure?
    • When will I get my results?
    • Why do I need this treatment or drug?
    • Are there any alternatives?
    • Will this medicine interact with any meds I’m currently taking?
    • When and how should I take my medicine?
    • What should I do if I miss my dose?
    • What are the possible complications or side effects?
    • What can I do to help manage my care?
    • What should I avoid doing to prevent my back pain from getting worse?
    • What should I do if my symptoms start?
    • Where and when should I get help if I get worse?

    Of course, this is not an exhaustive list so if there are any questions that come up for you before, after, or during the appointment, don’t be afraid to ask. Back pain is frustrating, but you don’t have to suffer alone.

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    If You Have These Symptoms You May Require Emergency Care

    Lower back pain, which can occur anywhere from your rib cage to your buttocks, is often the result of lifting, reaching, twisting and stretching. Upper and middle back pain, in most cases, does get better with time and rest. If your back pain is unrelenting and not relieved by rest, you should immediately visit the closest emergency department. If the pain is accompanied by any of the following symptoms, you should also seek emergency care:

    When To Go To The Er For Abdominal Pain

    When to go to the ER for back 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
    • Stomach is tender to the touch

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    If You Are Not Sure Talk To Someone

    If you are not sure what to do, and you don’t have one of the serious conditions listed above, call your provider. If the office is not open, your phone call may be forwarded to someone. Describe your symptoms to the provider who answers your call, and find out what you should do.

    Your provider or health insurance company may also offer a nurse telephone advice hotline. Call this number and tell the nurse your symptoms for advice on what to do.

    Acute Low Back Pain: First Don’t Panic

    When acute and extreme low back pain strikes, your first reaction may be one of worry. The pain can be so severe that it may limit your ability to lie down or sit comfortably. Standing upright and walking may be difficult, and going to work may be impossible.

    Remember that most low back pain and sciatica gets better quite quickly, and many cases resolve completely in a few short weeks. Sometimes, your low back pain may go away with no treatment whatsoever.

    Rest assured that while your current pain is intense and your functional mobility is limited, you can be up and about in a few short days with the right treatment and advice.

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    When Is Back Or Neck Pain An Emergency

    Most people experience back pain or neck pain at some point in their livesand most cases are not an emergency. Bouts of spine-related pain can usually be managed at home with an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drug, OTC pain reliever or ice and heat. Seldom is spine surgery urgently needed, and most surgical procedures are elective. However, there are times when back or neck pain requires urgent medical attention. Here, youll learn about 6 potentially serious spinal conditions and symptoms you shouldnt ignore.There are times when back or neck pain requires urgent medical attention. Photo Source:

    You Have Unexplained Weight Loss

    When Should I Go To The Emergency Room For Back Pain ...

    If you experience sudden weight loss that can’t be explained by diet and lifestyle changes, then you should always pay attention to what your body is telling you. This is especially true when the unexplained weight loss is accompanied by back pain. See your doctor to rule out the possibility of a more severe condition, such as an infection or tumor.

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    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 it’s a high fever or splitting headacheit’s hard to know whether to rush to the emergency room or not. You don’t want to overact, but you definitely don’t 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.

    Youve Got Stomach Pain Too

    Localized back pain will rarely migrate to the stomach. Stomach pain, however, can often be felt in the back, which means that your back pain could be originating from the abdomen, Dr. Anand says. Stomach pain accompanied by back pain can be caused by many different abdominal issues, including internal bleeding, cancer, or even an abdominal aortic aneurysm, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. Acute lower back pain that does not follow an obvious trauma or movement associated with the onset of pain, can be a symptom of an enlargement of the aorta in the abdomen, called an abdominal aortic aneurysm. If your pain is severe and continuous, get to the ER, says Dr. Anand.

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    Signs That A Headache Is A Medical Emergency

    In addition to tension headaches and migraines, there are times when a headache can be a sign of an emergency, such as a stroke, meningitis, or a brain tumor. If you experience any of the following symptoms, dial 911 or go to the ER immediately:

    • A headache following head trauma
    • An unusually severe headache
    • Numbness on the side of your face or body
    • Paralysis

    If you dont want to call 911, have a friend, family, or Uber or Lyft driver take you to the ER. Driving with a severe headache could put your life and the lives of others in danger.


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