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Deciphering the signals: When your back pain demands attention

Learn and how and when to address your back paain.

February 26, 2024

Back pain is a prevalent issue that can affect up to 80 percent of people at some point in their lives. While most back discomfort is temporary and often a result of overworked muscles or tendons, it's essential to recognize when your pain might be signaling something more serious. Severe or prolonged back pain, especially when accompanied by specific symptoms, should not be ignored. Below are some signs and symptoms that could indicate a more significant spinal issue and why seeking prompt medical attention is crucial. To gain further insights, we've consulted Dr. Kade Huntsman, a leading spine surgeon at St. Mark’s Hospital

Leg Pain and Weakness: A Red Flag

Pain that originates in the lower back and radiates down the legs, a condition known as sciatica, can be a sign of a serious problem. Possible culprits include a herniated disc or spinal stenosis, both of which narrow the space around spinal nerves, causing pain and irritation.

"Sciatica or leg pain originating from the back can range from dull to severe and may worsen with activities like coughing or sneezing. Herniated discs typically affect one side, while spinal stenosis pain can affect both legs," advises Dr. Huntsman.

While most sciatica or herniated disc pain improves within six to eight weeks without surgery, it's essential to seek immediate medical attention if leg pain lasts longer than a week, becomes severe, or is accompanied by muscle weakness, or difficulty controlling bowel or bladder function.

Loss of Bladder or Bowel Control: An Urgent Warning

Bladder or bowel incontinence can indicate nerve compression due to a ruptured disk. If left untreated, this compression can lead to permanent neurological damage.

Stiffness in the Morning: A Possible Clue to Arthritis

Experiencing excessive back pain and stiffness in the morning may be a sign of spinal arthritis. Various forms of arthritis, including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, typically cause pain and stiffness that worsen towards the end of the day and after periods of rest, such as a night's sleep.

Dr. Huntsman adds, "Spinal arthritis often affects the lower back (lumbar region). Diagnosis involves a physical exam and x-ray imaging. Fortunately, treatment options, including pain medication and physical therapy, are available, with surgery being a last resort."

Prevention is Key: Protecting Your Spinal Health

Persistent back pain should never be taken lightly. To reduce your risk of spinal issues like arthritis and maintain a healthy back, consider these preventive measures:

  • Engage in regular exercise.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight.
  • Practice good posture in your daily activities.
  • Take precautions to avoid spinal injuries.

If you're experiencing persistent back pain or any of the troubling signs mentioned above, it's imperative to consult a healthcare professional promptly. Seeking expert guidance can make a significant difference in your diagnosis and treatment. Remember, your back's health is paramount, and early intervention can be the key to a pain-free and active life. Don't hesitate to seek help when your body sends these important signals.

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Dr. Huntsman at chalkboard fully covered in forumulas.

Dr. Kade Huntsman is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon specializing in treatment of the spine and practicing in Salt Lake City, Utah. Dr. Huntsman specializes in advanced, minimally invasive procedures that allow patients to recover faster. He uses the latest generation of high tech robotic assistance during surgery, which allows him to perform fusion surgeries far less invasively and with much more accuracy. Among other spine procedures and conditions, Dr. Huntsman cares for degenerative conditions of the spine. Scoliosis, spine trauma, intricate spinal surgeries such as cervical spine disc replacements, lateral approaches to the lumbar spine, spinal fusion surgeries, microdiskectomy and decompression procedures for nerve roots. Learn more about Dr. Huntsman

February 26, 2024
St. Mark's Hospital