Is Back Pain Dangerous?

There are a lot of dangerous things that can cause back pain.  The good news is that the most dangerous causes of back pain are extremely rare, and the most common causes of back pain are neither life-threatening nor malignant.

For example, when I examine a case of low back pain, the very 1st thing that the patient and I do is discuss the circumstances around their pain.  Collecting these important details allows us to get a very good idea of the most likely causes.  By asking a series of detailed questions, I can determine if the low back pain is coming from a neuromusculoskeletal (nerve, muscle, and bone) problem that is not an emergency.  Careful questioning and examination can also uncover more dangerous problems causing back pain such as a fracture, spine infections, rheumatological disease, cancers/tumors, or damage to the spinal cord or spine nerves.  Even other problems with the digestive system, major blood vessels, bladder, uterus, or kidneys can all result in the symptom of back pain.

There are several red flags that indicate that a low back pain could be an emergency:
1. The back pain is severe and/or began with a major trauma.
2. There is also an unexplained fever.
3. There is numbness and/or weakness of the legs and/or groin area.

Careful discussion and examination is crucial to find the cause of back pain, so the patient can do the right thing to have it addressed.

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