When Back Pain Is More Serious Than a Simple Ache

Many of us have suffered from back pain at one time or another. Overdoing any physical activity can often aggravate muscles, reminding us to slow it down the next time.

In most cases, the pain will subside in a few days and we go right back to our normal activities. However, when back pain is more serious than a simple ache, it may be necessary to consult with a spine doctor.

What to Watch For

Pain is the body’s way of telling a person that something is wrong. When the pain persists or is accompanied by other symptoms, the body could be warning of a serious problem.

A person should contact a physician if their back pain:

  • Lasted longer than a few weeks
  • Is persistent and increasing
  • Is severe
  • Is worse at night or interrupts their sleep
  • Is accompanied by numbness, tingling, or weakness in the arms or legs
  • Is accompanied by numbness or other odd sensations in the buttock, genital, groin, or inner thigh areas
  • Is accompanied by abdominal pain

What Could These Symptoms Mean?

These symptoms could indicate different conditions. There are several common conditions associated with back pain. However, a person will need to consult with a physician to receive a proper diagnosis.

Heart Attack

A pain in the back that appears to have no apparent cause could actually be a sign of a heart attack, especially if it is accompanied by shortness of breath, nausea, fatigue, and jaw pain.


When the back pain only happens at night – and is not related to a bad mattress – it could be an indication of a tumor on the spine or an infection of the spinal bone.

Cauda Equine Syndrome

When the back pain is accompanied by numbness or odd sensations in the saddle or if the patient loses control of their bladder or bowels, they could be suffering from cauda equine syndrome. This is when nerve roots located in the spine become compressed, which cuts off any movement and sensation. Although this is not a common condition, when it does occur, it requires immediate surgery.

Ankylosing Spondylitis

When severe morning stiffness is also present, the person may have a form of arthritis called ankylosing spondylitis. If left untreated, this type of arthritis can cause the vertebrae of the spine to fuse together. It also increases a patient’s risk of stroke and heart disease.


Any patient with osteoporosis or osteopenia is highly susceptible to fractures. Serious back pain that does not go away could be a sign of a spine fracture.

When to Consult a Spine Doctor About Back Pain

When back pain is more serious than a simple ache, it is critical to seek medical assistance. Not doing so can lead to life-threatening situations, and in some cases, could result in permanent damage or death.

If you think your back pain is more than a simple ache, it is important to speak with a spinal doctor. They can evaluate your symptoms and help you get the treatment you need.