Back Pain - When should I see a doctor?

Most back injuries will settle with appropriate rest and treatment however some require further assessment. Minor back injuries are usually recommended to apply protection (back support), rest, ice and compression. Here we outline when it might be suitable to seek professional advice.

When should I see a doctor?

Lower back injuries occasionally require medical care, especially if they are severe. Similarly, those that are associated with pain that lasts a long time or experience ongoing impairment following a sporting injury should always be seen by a doctor or healthcare professional such as a physiotherapist, sports therapist, chiropractor or osteopath.

If you experience any of the following symptoms from a back injury you should seek professional medical advice:

  • Severe back pain that lasts more than 24 hours.
  • Dizziness or a feeling of unsteadiness.
  • Significant leg pain that came on after experiencing severe back pain.
  • Referred pain into the legs and/or feet following a back injury, especially if the symptoms do not decrease within 24 hours.
  • “Pins and needles” (paresthesia) feeling or “loss if feeling” (anaesthesia) in the legs or feet.
  • Changes in bowel or bladder habits (unable to go to the toilet or unable to control going to the toilet)
  • Loss of feeling at the base of the back in the “saddle” area (called “saddle anaesthesia”)

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