Most of us feel upper back pain occasionally. While most of the time your discomfort is only temporary and can be treated at home, there are instances when you need to seek medical attention. But, how do you know whether you need to stay in bed for a day or rush to your doctor? Here are some signs that will tell you to see a professional ASAP.
The pain lingers
If you tried everything from DIY treatments, resting and massages, and the pain still lingers, you might want to go see your doctor. In rare cases, your upper back pain can be a sign of a lung tumor. Cancer specialists point out that lung cancer in its late stages can cause bone pain that can show itself in your upper back. Other signs of lung cancer are weight loss, chest pain and weakness, so if you experience those together with your back pain, it’s a great idea to see a specialist and rule cancer out.
You’ve been in a car accident
Many people who happened to be in a rear-end car accident and are able to walk away choose not to see a doctor. However, a violent backward and forward jerk of the head and neck (also known as whiplash) can tear the muscles and ligaments in the neck and upper back. If you suspect whiplash and experience other symptoms like neck pain, fatigue and dizziness, see your doctor. You might get a prescription for some painkillers and physiotherapy.
Your legs feel weak
If you experience a weird weakness in your legs, your upper back pain can also be a result of a slipped disc. This usually happens when you lift heavy things with your back instead of using your legs. So, if you feel pain in your upper back, but also experience weakness in legs (or arms), see a neurologist. Specialists like experienced Dr Timothy Steel can give you a thorough exam and consult you on your future steps towards a pain-free life. In most cases, surgery for a slipped disc is very effective and many patients report total relief of the pain.
You experience shortness of breath
Sometimes, upper back pain can develop due to lung puncture caused by an injury. While this is not very likely, it’s good to know about this cause of upper back pain. In order to take the right action, keep an eye on shortness of breath and sharp pain when taking a deep breath. If these appear at the same time, seek immediate medical attention.
Your pain stretches to your sides
If you’ve ever had a kidney stone, you know just how painful this can be. Aside from the severe pain in your side and lower back, kidney stones might also cause upper back pain. If combined with discomfort during urination or red or brown colored urine, you might want to get checked out by a physician. With a simple ultrasound, they will be able to give you your diagnosis and prescribe further treatment.
You feel pain in your chest
If you feel upper back pain combined with numbness in your arms, it can be a sign of a stroke or an indicator that you have a tear in the wall of the aorta (this blood vessel runs in the back of your chest). People who have uncontrolled high blood pressure are especially at risk of aorta raptures that causes mid-chest and back pain. If you suspect stroke or aorta tears, see a doctor right away—this is something that can result in permanent consequences and even death.
You have a fever
Every other person at this time of the year might be suffering from the flu, but in certain cases, severe back pain accompanied with a fever and numbness and tingling in arms can be a sign of spinal infection. If you’re immunosuppressed, have diabetes, cancer or are obese, you’re especially at risk of developing spinal infections. If you suspect this, see a doctor who will likely order an x-ray, CT or an MRI for diagnosis and antibiotics for treatment.
There are many other things that can result in upper back pain (falls, sedentary lifestyle or stress) but these require immediate medical attention. In case you suspect any of these conditions listed above, visit your doctor or book surgeon consultations and you’ll know just what to do in order to ditch the pain and get back your mobility.