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When to Go to a Doctor for Back Pain

Back pain is tricky. It can sneak from behind and strike without warning, or it can be ever-present, a constant reminder of a lesson learned the hard way. It can manifest itself in the form of a sharp pain, or it can tingle, go numb or feel dull and mildly uncomfortable. Work can cause it, or it can make it impossible for you to do your job.

Yes, back pain is a mysterious medical condition—one that often makes it difficult to determine when you should go to the doctor for treatment and relief.

The answer doesn’t necessarily lie in the pain itself, but by the cause and the side effects.
If your back pain is accompanied by any if the following, go see your doctor immediately:

An Unyielding Fever

Back pain by itself doesn’t mean you have an infection; it could just be an everyday ache. Neither does a fever that won’t go away on its own; it could just be the flu. But when you combine the two, there is a strong possibility that you’re suffering from a systemic infection. If your doctor determines that you have an infection, antibiotics may be prescribed.

Pain that Only Appears While You Try to Sleep

If your back is pain-free all day but hurts as soon as you lie down in bed each night, you could be suffering from something as routine as a muscle sprain or something as serious as disc degeneration, cancer or a tumor. Back pain that only appears while you try to sleep should not be ignored.

Significant, Unexplained Weight Loss

Many people work hard to lose weight. They commit to a strict diet and exercise hard—and sometimes they overdo it, causing back pain. However, when your back hurts and you lose a significant amount of weight without changing your diet or increasing your workout, you should see your doctor. You could be suffering from an infection or something much more serious.

Back Pain Caused by Trauma

Your back is a complex. It’s made up of more than 30 bones, large and small muscles, disc and other soft tissue. When something traumatic happens, there are a lot of things that can go wrong with your back. If you are in an accident, fall or hurt your back as a result of any traumatic event, go see your doctor. It could be a sprain or a bruise. But then again, it could be a break.

Tingling or Numbness

If your back is tingling or numb, don’t spend your days and nights on pins and needles: Go see your doctor and find out what’s going on. Tingling sensations or periods of numbness can be caused by spinal stenosis or herniated discs. Both conditions can lead to permanent damage if left untreated.

Foot Drop

If your back hurts and you find yourself having to concentrate on lifting one foot higher than the other to avoid dragging your toes on the ground, go see your doctor. Foot drop makes walking difficult, and when it is combined with back pain, it could mean that you’re suffering from nerve damage, muscle problems or neurological issues that need to be addressed immediately.

Pain that Won’t Go Away

If your back pain lasts longer than six weeks, you should go see your doctor. Statistically speaking, nine out of 10 people who experience back pain get better within six weeks. The others often require help from their doctor to make the pain go away.

Feel free to contact us with any further questions.


Premier Orthopaedics is the largest orthopaedic group in Delaware and Chester counties. Premier provides patients with the full spectrum of orthopaedic services; including bone, muscle and joint care. Patients trust our specialists for their experience, expertise and commitment to exceptional patient care.