Sometimes back pain is from a simple muscle strain. However, it can be a sign of a problem. If a medical emergency is not treated promptly, it could result in disability. It is important to know when a back pain medical emergency occurs.

There are several symptoms you should look for when medical attention is necessary. These include progressive leg weakness or loss of bladder/bowel control.

You could be experiencing cauda equina syndrome if you have back pain and sudden feel weakness in areas such as:

  • Legs
  • Hips
  • Groin

Cauda equina syndrome is caused by severe compression of the entire lower spine nerve sac. However, if left untreated, it can cause paralysis, permanent loss of bladder or bowel control, and loss of feeling and sensation below the lumbar spine.

A Back Pain Medical Emergency:

  • Progressive leg weakness and altered sensation in the legs and feet
  • Difficulty walking
  • Loss of sensation in the “saddle” area (inner thighs, buttocks, sacral region)

If you experience unexplained weight loss, appetite loss and neurological problems with pain, this could be a sign of cancer. A spinal tumor can cause pain in the neck or back. However, neurological problems can also occur depending on the impacted nerves. You may experience persistent back pain that will not ease with rest. It can often worsen at night too. Along with weight loss, you could also experience:

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Chills
  • Fever

When severe abdominal pain and lower back pain are apparent, you could have an abdominal aortic aneurysm. Often, pain that remains in the back is usually associated with an injury. However, when it radiates from the abdomen, it is a more serious problem. The aorta is a large organ in your abdomen. When enlarged it can rupture causing internal bleeding. The pain can be so intense that you are unable to stand up straight.

If lower back pain is sudden and there is no obvious cause, seek immediate medical attention.

Back Pain Medical Emergency from a Spinal Infection

Fevers can indicate an infection. A spinal infection can occur if the immune system is weakened substantially. An epidural abscess can cause spinal infections. This abscess is a pus-filled cavity. When an infection occurs it develops in the spinal column and presses against the nerves. Compressed nerves can impair gross motor function causing paraplegia or quadriplegia.

There are two main types of spinal infections:

Infection after surgery: Infections occur in post-surgical wounds typically in 1% of cases. The risk is higher in those with compromised immune systems. When an infection occurs, the first symptom includes a high fever. Also, redness around the incision and a change in the appearance of drainage from the wound can happen. When caught early, a wound infection can be successfully treated. Usually with antibiotics. However, the pus may also need to be drained and the wound washed.

Vertebral bone infection: A bone infection (osteomyelitis) spreads to the spine from other parts of the body. This occurs through your veins. Bateria is typically the common cause to a bone infection. However, procedures in other areas of the body can cause infections too. Diagnostic testing is required. Factors that increase your risk for vertebral bone infection include the following:

  • intravenous drug use
  • dental surgery
  • long-term use of steroids

Although the risk comes from increased exposure of bacteria to your blood.

Back pain is normally caused by an injury or a muscle strain. Many people will never experience these symptoms. Knowing what a back pain medical emergency is could save your life.

If you are experiencing a back pain medical emergency, call 911. Then call us at 888-409-8006 for a specialist near you.