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Dr Zoe shares red flags back pain sufferers need to be aware of

PAIN comes in so many different forms, but it’s back pain that I see most often in my clinics.

And I’m not alone. Up to 80 per cent of all adults will suffer a bad back at some point in their life.

Alamy

Up to 80 per cent of all adults will suffer a bad back at some point in their life[/caption]

Like with any health problems, there are varying degrees of severity but if you have suffered back pain, you’ll know how debilitating it can be.

It can cause nasty headaches, and in many cases, it can start to affect a person’s mental health.

But thankfully, most of the time it will be short-lived, and can be managed fairly quickly.

More and more I’m seeing younger people – those in their 30s and 40s – plagued by what we call non-specific low back pain.

James Cannon

Dr Zoe Williams says back pain is the most common pain that she sees in her clinics[/caption]

Why’s that? There are lots of factors, but “tech neck” is something that comes up a lot.

We live our lives on the go, we’re glued to our phones and we spend all day hunched over screens – never more so than in lockdown, and working from home in makeshift offices.

Lower back pain, neck pain and headaches are more likely if you don’t exercise certain muscle groups, and sit in bad positions for long periods. It all ends up with our bodies not moving the way they should.

In most cases, this non-specific lower back pain will ease off with a bit of time. The important thing is to keep active, exercise and keep doing as many normal activities as possible – without pushing yourself and causing more pain.

Get it checked by doc

If the pain is making that hard, see your GP and discuss painkillers to manage your condition.

As with any health problems, there are rare times when your back pain might be a sign of something more serious.

If you notice any of these red flags, it’s important to get it checked out by your doctor.

They include:

  1. Severe back pain when you’re 20 or younger, or over 55
  2.  Loss of control of your bowels or bladder
  3. Weakness or numbness in a leg or arm
  4.  Foot drop or a disturbed gait
  5. High fever
  6. Saddle numbness – that’s of the anus, perineum or genitals
  7. A history of cancer
  8. Thoracic pain – that’s pain in your mid-spine
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Back pain can sometimes be a sign of something more serious[/caption]

These symptoms could be a sign of a slipped disc – also known as a herniated disc – some types of cancer, infection, fracture, or rheumatoid or vascular diseases.

Numbness in the leg can be a warning sign of sciatica, which often starts with nerve pain in the leg, and can cause weakness as well as pins and needles.

While rare, symptoms such as numbness of your genitals can be a sign of a serious condition, cauda equina syndrome.

This is where something compresses the nerves right at the bottom of the spinal cord, and it is a medical emergency that often requires surgery.

If left, it can lead to paralysis of the leg, incontinence and a loss of sexual function.

So, yes it’s rare, but if you spot any of the warning signs, get checked out sooner rather than later.


While most of us will experience back pain, it’s important to remember it’s not something you just have to live with.

Listen to your body, stay active and do regular exercise to build strength, which will help prevent severe bouts later down the line. Prevention is better than the cure!

And as with anything, if you’re worried, see your GP – that’s what we’re here for.

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