Back pain is almost an inevitability, with about four in five Americans experiencing back issues at some point their lives. Given the prevalence of back pain in our society, it can be difficult to distinguish between a minor issue and a serious health condition. In general, you should discuss any back problems with your physician at your earliest convenience, but here are five signs it’s time to see a back pain specialist:

  1. Numbness or tingling: Numbness or a mild tingling may not seem as serious as constant pain, but if these conditions persist for any significant period of time, you should visit a back pain doctor as soon as possible. These may be symptomatic of a herniated disc or spinal stenosis which is applying pressure on a nerve. Without medical intervention, this condition could produce a permanent disability.
  2. History of cancer: If you have had cancer at some point prior to your back pain, you should see a back pain specialist so that they can rule out a return of cancer. Your physician will conduct a series of tests possibly including an MRI, X-ray, or blood work to determine if there are cancerous growths in the spinal area. If cancer is detected, it is best to do so as early as possible so that medication or radiation therapies can be applied in a timely manner.
  3. Nocturnal pain: Pain that worsens at night should be a warning that something is seriously wrong. Nighttime should be the period of the day when you can limit pain by adjusting your body position, but if your back pain persists even in a reclined position, it may indicate that you have a sprain, disc degeneration, or fracture. In some cases, persistent back pain may be symptomatic of more serious health conditions like kidney stones, scoliosis, arthritis or cancer.
  4. Chronic pain: In almost 90 percent of back pain cases, the condition improves within six weeks. If you continue to experience discomfort after this period, then you should get an evaluation from a back pain specialist. In the majority of cases, chronic back pain can be managed through a number of therapies like exercise, physical therapy or medication, but for some patients more invasive procedures may be necessary.
  5. Traumatic injury: It may seem obvious to seek medical attention following any type of traumatic injury to your back, but many people overestimate their recuperative powers or underestimate the severity of the injury, and forgo a visit to the doctor. This can be dangerous as a fracture could produce additional damage to surrounding tissue including spinal nerves.

These are some of the most obvious warning signs that you should consult with a back pain specialist, but you should also be aware that pain is not a reliable indicator of the seriousness of a back condition. Many minor injuries produce a disproportionate amount of discomfort, while some dangerous conditions may present with little or no pain. It is often in your best interest to consult with your primary care physician about any back issues and seek out a second opinion from a specialist if recommended.


Article written by: Dr. Robert Moghim – CEO/Founder Colorado Pain Care

M.D. Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the personal views of Robert Moghim, M.D. and do not necessarily represent and are not intended to represent the views of the company or its employees.