Many back problems can improve on their own or with non-surgical treatment. However, some symptoms represent emergencies and need to be seen immediately by a spine specialist to prevent permanent nerve damage. Carson Tahoe Pain Institute encourages you to use this chart as a helpful guide for possible symptoms.
Please read below for further details:
While it's rare, these could be serious symptoms related to a neck injury or neck problem. To be safe, you should consult your family physician promptly to determine the cause of the symptoms.
Pain that radiates into an arm below the elbow can imply a herniated disc in the neck. But many times, radiating pain can be treated non-surgically. Radiating pain is a symptom that should be seen by a spine specialist within two weeks.
Neck pain can be caused by traumatic injury, like whiplash from a car accident, or muscle or ligament strain. If pain persists beyond a week, you should see a spine specialist to determine the underlying cause.
Numbness or tingling in the arm or hand is a more serious symptom that is NOT appropriate for watchful waiting. Left untreated, the symptom can become permanent. You should see a spine specialist within five days.
Pain that radiates into a leg below the knee can imply a herniated disc in the low back. But many times radiating pain can be treated non-surgically. Radiating pain should be seen by a spine specialist within two weeks.
Pain that is limited to the low back can often be a result of muscle strain. While pain spasms can be excruciating, muscle strain problems do not require surgery. Special stretches may relieve pain along with the proper use of anti-inflammatories. However, if pain persists beyond a week, it could imply something different than muscle strain, and you should see a spine specialist to determine the underlying cause.
Numbness or tingling in the leg is a more serious symptom that is NOT appropriate for watchful waiting. Left untreated, the symptom can become permanent. You should see a spine specialist within five days.
When pain radiates below the knee, it could imply a herniated disc. While many times this can be treated non-surgically, you should see a spine specialist within five days.
This is an emergency symptom that needs to be treated immediately by a spine surgeon within 48 hours. If you experience these symptoms at night or on the weekend, go to the emergency room. If not seen immediately, the person may lose control over their bowel and bladder permanently.
If pain, weakness or numbness extends into the foot so that you are unable to lift your toe as you walk, that is called Foot Drop, which is an emergency symptom. You need a spine specialist within 48 hours. If not treated promptly, it could lead to permanent weakness in the leg.
Those who self diagnose and self treat themselves do so at their own risk. We accept no responsibility for any problems that may result from the use or misuse of educational information intended to be helpful guidance.