Back pain can have many causes, from an acute injury like an auto accident or wear-and-tear over time. In some cases though, it is symptomatic of a more serious underlying problem. In a recent bulletin from Infection Control Today, specialists encouraged doctors to be on the lookout for cases of vertebral osteomyelitis, a spinal infection that manifests first as pain in the back. Solomon Kamson MD, PhD notes that because back pain is such a common complaint, it can be easy for doctors to miss more serious problems if there are no other ongoing symptoms. In this kind of case, a patient’s biggest responsibility is to be their own first evaluator and their own best advocate.
Call the Doctor
Don’t delay when considering medical treatment. In situations where the primary or only symptom a patient is experiencing is back pain, doctors will first choose a course of treatment that attempts to treat the pain with non-invasive measures. It’s important that you get this treatment early. Failure of conservative treatments can be an indication that there is a larger underlying issue. And of course, with serious problems, the earlier you get a diagnosis and begin treatment, the better
Know Your Body
When it comes to making an initial diagnosis and in choosing early tests, a key piece of evidence that can help is your description of symptoms. Any information you can give your doctor about unusual behaviors, changes, or issues will be useful. In particular, pay attention to the behavior of your pain, when you tend to feel pain (i.e., time of day, relation to certain activities, etc.), and the development of other symptoms like a gait problem, a fever, or pains in other parts of the body.
Be Aware of Symptoms
Should you experience more serious symptoms, take immediate action. If you develop symptoms like fever, swelling, redness, dizziness, or loss of appetite, contact your doctor immediately or seek out emergency care. These can be signals that something more serious than everyday back pain is going on.
Spinal problems caused by infectious diseases are not common, so there’s no reason to become alarmed if you experience back pain. Still, you shouldn’t neglect to pursue timely medical care. Even if you aren’t facing anything severe, pursuing timely treatment can have a dramatic impact on the time it takes for you to start to experience relief.