8 red flags your back pain could be something more serious

iStockBack pain is common but it can be serious.
  • Back pain that persists and doesn’t get better may indicate something more serious.
  • Numbness, tingling, and weakness in your lower body are all signs of an injury that is more serious than common back pain.
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.

Back pain affects most of us at some point in our lives. In fact, it is one of the most common health complaints made by Americans. And while back pain can originate from something as simple as bending over or using improper lifting form at the gym, it can also be a sign that something more serious is going on.

INSIDER asked two experts to share eight red flags that indicate you may be dealing with sometime other than common back pain.

Of course, this list is not complete and you should visit your doctor if you’re concerned about your pain even if your symptoms aren’t described here.

You’re experiencing pain that also affects your legs, hips, and glutes

A simple muscle pull may be sore for a few days, but if you’re experiencing pain longer than that, and you are having intense leg or back pain, Dr. Allen Conrad, BS, DC, CSCC, owner of Montgomery County Chiropractic Center said you might have a herniated disc.

“A herniated disc occurs when the jelly-like substance between your vertebrae in your back becomes misaligned,” he told INSIDER. Additionally, Grayson Wickham, PT, DPT, CSCS, a physical therapist and founder of Movement Vault told INSIDER that weakness in your hips, legs, glutes, or muscles of the foot could point to an injured vertebral disc, again compressing your sciatic nerve causing these symptoms.

Your back pain won’t go away with any types of treatments

Stress fractures happen as a result of overuse injuries or trauma. If you’re dealing with a stress fracture of the spine, Conrad said you will most likely experience persistent back pain that will not go away with any types of treatments. “These tiny fractures in the bone will not resolve until the area is stabilised,” he explained.

You have pain in your kidneys

In addition to flu-like symptoms, kidney infections can also cause persistent back pain.

“This pain is commonly associated in the flank area of the back on either side, under the side of the ribs,” explained Conrad. The pain can come on suddenly or build up over time. He also pointed out that kidney pain may have sharp pain if you push on the sides of your back which overlap the kidneys.

You’re experiencing heartburn with back pain

Chest painGetty ImagesHeartburn can be a sign of something more serious.

When stomach acid flows back into your esophagus, the lining of the esophagus can often feel irritated. When this happens, many people experience heartburn. Otherwise known as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or GERD, Conrad said this can cause upper to mid back pain and stiffness, which is usually associated with certain foods you eat.

You’re experiencing numbness, tingling, and a burning sensation

If you’re experiencing numbness, tingling, or a burning pain in your back or your legs, Wickham said these are all symptoms of nerve pain. “This is a sign that you may have injured a vertebral disc, which then compresses your sciatic nerve causing these symptoms,” he said.

Your back pain is localised

If your back pain only happens in specific positions such as when you bend forward, Wickham said this could indicate that you either strained an erector muscle in your lower back or sustained a vertebral disc injury such as a bulging disc or herniated disc.

You’re not getting better

Man back painRawpixel.com/ShutterstockIf it’s not going away, it’s time to go to the doctor.

If you injured your back, and it does not get any better within five days, Wickham said you might be dealing with more than sore muscles. This is also true if you haven’t exercised in the previous two to three days, but you’re experiencing back pain. “This indicates that you injured your back in one way or another,” he explained.

You’re experiencing chest pain

Although it doesn’t always present this way, Conrad said a heart condition or underlying cardiovascular blockage might present itself as upper mid back pain or arm pain. “If you believe that your back pain is related to your heart, proceed to the emergency room as soon as possible for an evaluation,” he said.

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