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Nighttime Back Pain

(continued)

Can Nocturnal Back Pain Be a Sign of Something Serious? continued...

Nocturnal back pain is also a symptom of spinal bone infection (osteomyelitis) and ankylosing spondylitis (AS), a condition that can cause the spine to fuse in a fixed, immobile position.

Other "red flags" include:

  • Back pain that spreads down one or both legs
  • Weakness, numbness, or tingling in legs
  • New problems with bowel or bladder control
  • Pain or throbbing in your abdomen
  • Fever
  • Spots warm to the touch
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • History of cancer
  • History of a suppressed immune system
  • History of trauma

If one or more of these symptoms accompanies back pain -- especially if you have a history of cancer -- contact your doctor for further evaluation. It's also important to call the doctor if your back pain is the result of a recent injury.

It's important to note that it's rare that nighttime back pain is caused by a tumor, infection, or AS. In the study in the U.K., for instance, no serious spinal disease was found in any of the participants who had nighttime back pain. And in another study, only 0.66% of patients (less than one in 100) being evaluated for lower back pain in a primary care setting were found to have cancer.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Kimball Johnson, MD on September 26, 2012
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