That's a great question, and luckily there's some pretty clear cut answers on the topic. If you check yes to any of these red flags below them you should definitely report to an urgent care or ER immediately. You should at the bare minimum reach out to your primary care physician and report the symptoms, they will guide you on the next appropriate action since they likely have a better understanding of your past medical history.
Red Flags to watch out for:
New changes associated with peri-anal/genital region, especially if associated with a recent traumatic injury.
If you begin to experience bowel or bladder changes
Sexual dysfunction or changes per your normal
Saddle region numbness and tingling
Acute weakness can be associated with red flags (but also normal with conditions that affect nerves)
New onset scoliosis
New arching of feet or curling of toes
New spasming or tremors of lower extremities
New onset back pain with fever or back pain that tends to increase substantially at night
Inability to find a comfortable position or one that doesn't seem to be affected by movement
You may be reading this and thinking to yourself that you fit one or two. If you're worried or curious call us - (817)-907-7993 or set up a face-to-face visit for free here.
The statistics for back pain is in your favor though with the absolute vast majority to be non-specific low back pain. This can feel like a general, dull ache in the low back or middle back pain. It can also feel like a sharp pain in the lower back that is off to one side. These tend to subside after a few weeks on their own, even if you did nothing for them.
For others, you may be feeling some sharp pain between your shoulder blades, often times it is off to one side and not usually in the center along the spine. This is often times improved immediately with two cues - pull your chain back and pull your shoulder blades back which kind of forces your chest up. If this turns the pain down from a sharp stab to a mild ache or dull moderate sensation then it's likely just soft-tissue that needs some TLC. Here's some quick guides that you can implement at home if you don't check off any red flags. Sciatica or leg symptoms. Stiffness in lower back.
There's a lot things that can serious with the back and spine, but for most of us, the signs and symptoms are usually more scary than the underlying causes. We are humans, we tend to overthink and feel like we're the exception, but as the saying implies, if you hear hoof beats, it's probably not a unicorn.
Jarred Tobin PT, DPT