Tests will be ordered if your doctor has concerns that a serious problem or
underlying medical condition is causing your back pain. Keep in mind that most
of the time, low back pain gets better on its own with little intervention
or only simple treatment measures.
Cauda Equina Syndrome
In the lowest part of the spinal column, there is a collection of nerve fibers,
sometimes called "the tail" of the spinal cord. This collection of nerves is
called the cauda equina, Latin for horse’s tail. If these fibers become
trapped, you can lose control of bladder and bowel function. This is called
cauda equina syndrome. Other symptoms of this condition are:
- Dull back pain
- Weakness or numbness in your buttocks, genital area, or thighs
- Inability to control urination or bowel movements
This condition must be treated with immediate surgery to reduce the risk of
Other warning signals
When evaluating you for back pain, your doctor will be checking for signs
of the following:
- Infection (like meningitis, an abscess, or urinary tract infection)
- Kidney stone or other kidney disorder
- In men, a problem with the testicles or scrotum (like a twisted testicle)
If any of the following are present, it will raise greater concern that one
of these problems may be causing your back pain:
- Pain awakens you at night.
- You have a fever along with your pain.
- Pain gets worse when you lie down.
- The pain is not related to your movement. In other words, no particular
movement makes the pain better or worse. It is just bad all of the time.
- You have been losing weight unintentionally around the time that your pain
- You have a long history of steroid use (for example, for severe asthma).
- You use intravenous drugs.
- You have urinary tract symptoms along with the back pain like burning with
urination or blood in your urine.
- Your pain is very sharp.
Review Date: 4/6/2007
Reviewed By: Benjamin D. Roye, M.D., M.P.H., Orthopaedic Surgery, The Mount Sinai Hospital, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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