Back pain is something that most people experience at some point. There are numerous possible reasons for it, but with the spine being such a significant part of human anatomy, sometimes it just undergoes a bit more stress than it's able to cope with. Spinal pain can be caused by something as simple as sleeping in an awkward position or standing for long periods with bad posture, but occasionally, there's something else happening.
Usually, there's nothing to worry about and the pain will go away on its own. But it's important to know when you should see a doctor for a diagnosis. Here are the things to look out for; if any of them apply to you, see a medical professional for help.
Sharp, shooting pains
For most people, back pain is typically characterised as an ache. If it's sharp, with shooting pains, it could be a sign of sciatica. This is especially likely if you also experience pain or numbness in other parts of the body, such as the legs.
Pain lasting more than three weeks
If your pain is lasting a long time with no improvement, it's considered beyond normal spinal pain. You should consider medical help, especially if the pain is getting worse or there's been no improvement at all.
Particularly severe pain
When your painful spine is stopping you carrying out normal activities, you should have it checked by a doctor. The same goes for situations where the pain is so bad it's causing you significant distress, or when it's stopping you from getting to sleep at night.
No response to normal treatments
Try treating your pain at home with over-the-counter pain medication like ibuprofen. Couple this with hot and cold treatments, which can be as simple as a bag of frozen vegetables or a hot water bottle. If there's no change after trying these treatments for a few days, and they don't even provide temporary relief, make an appointment with a doctor. You may need prescription medication or other professional treatments.
There's usually some level of swelling where back pain is involved, but your spine and surrounding area should still appear normal. If you can see any bumps, bulges or other signs of swelling, it could be a slipped disc or some other issue that needs medical attention. Even if the pain is fairly mild, you should get your back checked properly to find out what's causing the swelling.