Back pain: When your lower back pain could signal something far more serious

Most lower back pain is the result of an injury, such as muscle sprains or strains due to sudden movements or poor body mechanics while lifting heavy objects. Lower back pain can also be the result of certain diseases including cancer of the spinal cord. How can you tell if your lower back pain may be something far more serious?

For people who have severe lower back pain, it is natural to wonder whether or not the pain might be a sign of spinal cancer.

Lower back pain is a common cause for visits to the doctor.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), low back pain is the most common cause of job-related disability.

While most back pain is unrelated to cancer or tumours, it is possible and important to check out.

The symptoms of spinal cancer depend on several factors, including the tumour type, size, location, as well as age and health history of the patient, said Cancer Centers Treatment of America.

The health site continued: “Some common spinal cancer symptoms include pain, numbness, weakness and difficulty with urination.

“The symptoms of spinal cancer may occur very slowly.

“Other times, they occur quickly, even over a matter of hours or days.”

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Spine Health said when back pain is caused by a cancerous spinal tumour, it typically:

Starts gradually and worsens over time

Does not improve with rest and may intensify at night

Flares up as a sharp or shock-like pain in the upper or lower back, which may also go into the legs, chest, or elsewhere in the body

It added: “Other signs and symptoms that could potentially indicate the origin of back pain from cancer include unplanned weight loss, nausea, fever, chills, or other troubling symptoms.”

A GP will be able to do a complete medical history and conducting a thorough physical examination to determine where you’re feeling the pain.

A physical exam can also determine if pain is affecting your range of motion.

Your GP may also check your reflexes and your responses to certain sensations.

Certain warning symptoms which may require more testing include:

  • Lack of bowel control
  • Weakness
  • Fever
  • Weight loss

Back pain is a major health issue in Western countries and 60 – 80 percent of adults are likely to experience lower back pain.

In a systematic review of the effects of exercise and physical activity on chronic low back pain, exercise and how it can help alleviate back pain was investigated.

The study noted: “It’s recommended for patients with back pain to remain physically active, as long periods of inactivity will adversely affect recovery.

“A variety of different types of exercise have been explored including low-to-moderate intensity aerobic exercise, high intensity aerobic exercise, core stabilisation and muscular strength exercise.”

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