When to See a Doctor for Back Pain?

Table of Contents

  1. What is Back Pain?
    1. What is a back doctor called?
    2. When to See a Doctor for Back Pain?
      1. Prolonged Pain
      2. Sudden Weight Loss
      3. Nighttime Pain
      4. Drop foot
      5. Cancer and immune suppression
      6. Osteoporosis
      7. Problems on Bowel or Bladder Function
      8. Weakness and Numbness
      9. Fever
      10. Trauma
  2. Takeaway


What is Back Pain?

Back pain is so common that the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) stated that 80% of adults experience low back pain at some point in their lifetimes. It is the most common cause of job-related disability and contributes highly to missed workdays. It affects both men and women equally and ranges in intensity from a constant dull ache to a sudden sharp pain that may leave the person. It is often caused by an accident, posture, lifting something heavy, lifestyle or by age.

More often than not, low back pain is acute or short term. It tends to get better on its own within a few weeks or months through self-care but sometimes the pain can last a long time and may need special care.

What is a back doctor called?

There are three broad types of medical practitioners that help in treating back pain:

  1. Therapists – physical therapists, occupational therapists, and clinical psychologists have expertise in treating, rehabilitation and psychological help for chronic back pain.
  2. Spine Specialists – these are medical health practitioners with a specific field of expertise that give certain diagnoses/treatments for spinal conditions and back pain. They generally include:






  3. Primary Care Providers – often are the one who first treats the back pain then may refer to a specialist if further care is needed. They generally include:

Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine


Primary Care Physicians (Family doctor, pediatricians, internists, obstetricians, gynecologists)

When to See a Doctor for Back Pain?

There are red flags to help you evaluate when you should see a doctor for your back pain. These warnings will help determine the presence of tumors, or infections of the spine or to detect fractures. See a doctor as soon as possible if you have the following:

Prolonged Pain

back pain usually gets better within 2-5 weeks with plenty of rest and over the counter medicine. However, if the pain persists for more than two weeks and hinders you from doing a simple daily task, further tests, and evaluation will be needed to help determine a diagnosis.

Sudden Weight Loss

an unexpected rapid weight loss without even dieting may rule out an infection and tumors as a cause for the back pain. MRI and blood tests would be required to further help with the diagnosis.

Nighttime Pain

pain that wakes you up at night shouldn’t be ignored, it could be a sign of something serious like disc degeneration or a tumor.

Drop foot

is sometimes called “foot drop”. This refers to the inability to elevate the front part of the foot which drags the toes along the ground when walking.

Cancer and immune suppression

the doctor may rule out as cancer spread as a cause for the back pain as well as an infection if there is a history of a suppressed immune system.


due to having weak bones, the doctor may rule out the cause of the back pain as a fracture.

Problems on Bowel or Bladder Function

it is important to tell the doctor if you have this problem for it might be a sign of a rare condition called cauda equina syndrome. This syndrome refers to the instance of compression or paralysis of the nerve roots in the lower end of the spinal cord.

Weakness and Numbness

this could be a sign of nerve irritation and is more significant than the typical back pain. Prolonged nerve irritation and damage may lead to permanent disabilities.


back pain with unresponsive fever can be a sign of a serious infection. Antibiotics will be prescribed and doctors may recommend you to slowly start doing daily tasks for more rest may prolong back pain.


this refers to an injury from a fall from a height or an accident, back pain from this especially if you’re over 50.


If you live in New Jersey, or anywhere near NJ, there is a pain management specialist who can help you treat and manage lower back pain and recommends exercises that will strengthen your postural muscles that will help prevent back pain. Dr. Ronak Patel is an expert when it comes to pain management.
Schedule your appointment today! Call us at (609) 269-4451.

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