When is Back Pain a Medical Emergency?



July 30, 2013

It is important to note that most back pain is not considered a medical emergency that requires an immediate trip to the hospital. Actually quite often, back pain will subside on its own without even needing to see a doctor.

There are times though where you will injure your back and require immediate medical attention. Knowing when you need to see a doctor and when you don’t is the most important step in having a full recovery. The spinal cord contains vital nerves that communicate with the rest of your body. A spinal cord injury is extremely serious as it could lead to paralysis or even death if not treated immediately.

Traumatic Injury

A traumatic injury to the face, neck, head, chest, or back such as when in a car accident could apply enough force to the spinal column causing damage to your spinal cord. Not only may a car accident cause a severe injury that needs to be examined immediately, but a fall from heights, or injury to your head with a sports injury may also require attention.

Checklist for Emergency Medical Attention

  1. If you have any of the following you should consider seeking medical attention
  2. If your injury has left your head in an unusual position
  3. If you have numbness and /or tingling in one or more of your arms or legs
  4. If you are dizzy or have difficulties walking
  5. Loss of feeling or movement in one or more of your arms or legs
  6. If you have lost control of your bowel or bladder
  7. If you are in shock
  8. If you lost consciousness in your accident
  9. If you feel injury to your neck such as, stiffness, headache, or pain

What to do if you witness an accident

Unless it is absolutely necessary, never move someone you believe may have a spinal cord injury.

Three steps to take before medical help arrives

  1. Call your local emergency number, 911 in most North American cases.
  2. Keep the person’s head and neck in the same position that they were found in.  There may be an injury that could worsen if you try to straighten the neck. It is important not to let the neck bend or twist.
  3. You should not allow the victim to get up and walk without assistance.

Spinal cord injuries are serious and need to be treated as such.  When your health is in question, it is important that you seek what medical attention is needed.