Symptoms of back pain may include:

  • Muscle ache
  • Shooting or stabbing pain
  • Pain that radiates down your leg
  • Limited flexibility or range of motion of the back
  • Inability to stand up straight

When to see a doctor

Most back pain gradually improves with home treatment and self-care. Although the pain may take several weeks to disappear completely, you should notice some improvement within the first 72 hours of self-care. If not, see your doctor.

In rare cases, back pain can signal a serious medical problem. Seek immediate care if your back pain:

  • Causes new bowel or bladder problems
  • Is associated with pain or throbbing (pulsation) in the abdomen, or fever
  • Follows a fall, blow to your back or other injury

Contact a doctor if your back pain:

  • Is constant or intense, especially at night or when you lie down
  • Spreads down one or both legs, especially if the pain extends below the knee
  • Causes weakness, numbness or tingling in one or both legs
  • Is accompanied by unexplained weight loss
  • Occurs with swelling or redness on your back

Also, see your doctor if you start having back pain for the first time after age 50, or if you have a history of cancer, osteoporosis, steroid use, or drug or alcohol abuse.

Sep. 11, 2012