How Serious is Your Low Back Pain?

Do you suffer from low back pain? If yes, you’re not alone. Low back pain is one of the most common problems in the U.S.A. It’s one of the top 5 reasons to see a primary care physician, is estimated to affect 80% of people in their lifetimes and is the most common cause of job-related disability. Frankly, it’s very common and very annoying. Now, the majority of these cases are not serious, with a muscle strain being the most common acute condition. Sprain/strains can usually be effectively treated using conservative means and are resolved in a few weeks. However, some rare cases can be much more severe such as an infections, tumors, cancers or lesser known problems such as cauda equine syndrome. Many of these more severe conditions can be identified through the presence of certain symptoms, or red flags, which are clues that a more ominous underlying condition is causing your pain. Some of these include:

  1. Loss of bowel/bladder function
  2. Numbness in the saddle (groin) area
  3. Progressive weakness of the legs
  4. Severe unrelenting pain in the back or the abdomen
  5. Unexplained weight loss
  6. Fever or chills
  7. Undergoing a trauma that could have resulted in a fracture


It’s important to be able to recognize red flags with low back pain and to seek emergency care right away if any are present. If you have no red flags, then remember how common the other non-serious conditions are and see your local manual therapist to help treat it!



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Written by Dr. Brandon Buchla, DC, CSCS

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