Back pain? Watch out for these 8 red flags

About 80% of people have at least one episode of low back pain during their lifetime. A common type of low back pain is radiculopathy, which occurs when a nerve root is irritated by protruding disc or arthritis of the spine.

Sciatica is the most common symptom of radiculopathy. It causes a sharp or burning pain that extends down the back or side of the thigh, usually to the foot or ankle. It’s associated with tingling and numbness. Occasionally, sciatica may be associated with muscle weakness in the leg or the foot.

Common risk factors

Factors that increase the risk of developing low back pain include:

  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Older age
  • Physically strenuous work
  • Sedentary work
  • A stressful job
  • Job dissatisfaction
  • Psychological factors, such as anxiety or depression

When to seek immediate medical attention

Back pain can be relieved in many ways. But here are eight red flags that should require immediate medical assistance at urgent care or ER:

  1. If you are 70 years or older with new back pain.
  2. Pain that does not go away, even at night or when lying down.
  3. Weakness in one or both legs or problems with bowel, bladder, or sexual function.
  4. Back pain accompanied by unexplained fever or weight loss.
  5. A history of cancer, a weakened immune system, osteoporosis, or having used corticosteroids (eg, prednisone) for a prolonged period of time.
  6. Back pain resulting from falling or an accident, especially if you’re older than 50 years.
  7. Pain that spreads into the lower leg, particularly if accompanied by weakness of the leg.
  8. Back pain that doesn’t improve within 4 weeks.

If you experience any of these symptoms, stop by an urgent care clinic. At Nao Medical in NYC, no appointment is necessary and you’ll only wait minutes to be seen. We are open on weekends as well. You can call ahead and let us know you’re on the way or you can book online.

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