Back Injuries: When to See Your Doctor

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Some back injuries are likely to require nothing more than a heating pad, some over-the-counter pain medication, and a little rest. Other injuries to your spine and supporting joints and muscles will likely require a thorough exam and diagnostic tests. Having a better understanding of when it’s time to see your doctor can prevent some otherwise minor injuries from turning into something major.
Serious Trauma
Any serious blow to your back should be checked by your doctor, especially if you have sharp, sudden pain immediately after the injury. Since pain may not be felt right away, pay attention to symptoms that suddenly appear after the initial back injury. Serious trauma can also result from a hard hit or fall while playing sports or when your spine has been excessively bent or twisted.
Numbness or Tingling
Over-the-counter medications aren’t likely to help if you’re experiencing numbness or tingling following a back injury. Sensations like this are usually a sign of nerve damage or irritation likely to require more precise treatment. In some cases, pressure on nerves can slowly increase to the point where numbness is first experienced in the days or weeks following the injury.
History of Osteoporosis or Arthritis
Sometimes referred to as brittle bone disease, osteoporosis is a condition that can make even minor back injuries potentially problematic. The same is true with arthritis, which can make joints supporting the spine more susceptible to serious damage from a fall or other sudden impact.
Night Pain or Prolonged Pain
If you feel fine during the day and experience bouts of pain at night, it’s time to see your doctor. Approximately 90 percent of all back pain goes away in less than six weeks, so any pain from an injury lasting longer than this should be evaluated by your doctor.
Loss of Function

Occurring when nerve roots in the lower end of the spinal cord are compressed or paralyzed, loss of bowel or bladder function requires immediate medical attention. After the damage from the injury is treated, you may require follow-up treatments to manage or control related pain.
The level of pain management you’re likely to require following a back injury depends on the extent of the injury and your symptoms. While not all back injuries can be prevented, knowing when to get some input from your doctor can be the key to effectively managing your short-term pain and reducing your risk of experiencing lingering discomfort.