Approximately 90 percent of the population will experience back pain at one time or another. Most of the time, it’s either temporary or isn’t something that requires urgent medical attention or treatment. However, on rare occasions, back pain can be a sign you need to see a doctor as soon as possible. Here are three specific back pain symptoms that typically require immediate medical attention.
Damage to the spinal cord or a group of nerves called the cauda equina (located at the lower end of the spinal cord) can affect nerves that control bladder and bowel functions. If this happens, you may experience:
• Urinary incontinence
• Bowel incontinence
• Urine retention
• An inability to empty the bladder completely
• Poor urine stream
Symptoms of this nature sometimes begin slowly, but they can also come on suddenly in certain instances. A type of spinal cord damage called conus medullaris syndrome is associated with retention of urine. If the cauda equina is affected (cauda equina syndrome), urinary incontinence is a common symptom. If not treated, either of these conditions may result in lower body paralysis. Treatment may involve decompression surgery such as a kyphoplasty procedure. Santa Monica patients with any of the symptoms listed above should seek medical attention as soon as possible.
The “saddle” refers to the groin, buttocks, genital area, and inner thighs. Compression of the lower back nerves discussed above or certain parts of the spinal cord can contribute to a type of numbness referred to as saddle anesthesia. It’s common for this condition to also cause issues with sexual dysfunction, which might include a lack of sensation or numbness during sexual activity. Some affected individuals also experience weakness or pain that extends to both legs.
Lower back pain is often either relegated to the affected part of the lower spine or extends downward if certain nerves, like the sciatic nerve, are affected. Back pain that’s producing accompanying abdominal and/or side pain should be cause for concern.
Symptoms of this nature could be related to an abdominal aortic aneurysm. The resulting discomfort may extend to parts of the saddle area, including the buttocks, groin, and hips. The condition occurs if the large abdominal aorta bulges out. This protrusion may cause spine-related problems if it presses against some portion of the spine or a related spinal structure. Symptoms may include:
• Discomfort or pain that’s initially vague
• Sharp and/or stabbing pain sensations
• Pain in the lower right back area
It’s also possible for a ruptured or inflamed appendix to be a source of lower back pain. Because of the many possible variables involved, it’s best to err on the side of caution and seek immediate medical attention for any back pain that’s sudden, intense, out of the ordinary in terms of the symptoms you’re noticing, or getting increasingly worse. Also, see your doctor or Santa Monica spine surgeon immediately if back pain is accompanied by nausea and vomiting, a fever, confusion, anxiety, or unexplained weight loss.
If you’re experiencing severe or long-lasting back pain of any kind, reach out to the pioneering spine specialists at The Spine Institute for prompt diagnosis and a customized plan of treatment that will get you back to a pain-free life. Call one of our friendly staff members at 310-828-7757 to schedule a consultation.