You should seek urgent specialist advice if:
Along with the back pain you have lost power in the foot or leg If you have difficulty in passing urine or moving your bowels with numbness in the area that you would sit on a saddle – so called saddle anaesthesia.
You should also seek medical advice when:
- This is the first time you have experienced back pain and it shows no signs of improving despite treatment after 4-5 weeks.
- There is back pain after injury
- If the back pain is associated with feeling unwell, poor appetite or feeling feverish
- If the back pain radiates into the leg and has not improved after 4-5 weeks
- If the back pain is associated with numbness or weakness in the leg or foot
- If you have back pain and are taking steroids
- If your back pain is getting progressively worse
Apart from these indications you may just want to go to your GP to get his opinion on your back, your general lifestyle and how it might be improved, and to get reassurance
If you feel the back pain is manageable and provided it is not aggravated by exercise then getting yourself generally fit and optimising your weight is a good idea. There are no absolute rules, but if walking and running don’t suit, swimming and isometrics such as yoga and Pilates are good alternatives. It is a good idea to see your doctor before trying chiropractic treatment, massage or acupuncture, but I accept that many people will try these things before ever visiting their GP.
If you still have symptoms three months after having treatment of this type, which by definition means you are entering a phase of chronic back pain then it is important to see your GP and perhaps consider referral to a spine specialist.