Low Back Pain - When to Call a Doctor
Call 911 or other emergency services immediately if:
- Back pain occurs with chest pain or
other symptoms of a heart attack.
- A person has signs of damage to the
spine after an injury (such as a car
accident, fall, or direct blow to the
spine). Signs may include:
- Being unable to move part of
- Severe back or neck pain.
- Weakness, tingling, or numbness in
the arms or legs.
Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:
Recommended Related to Back Pain
Tests for Diagnosing Back Pain
Ankylosing spondylitis exams and tests
Antinuclear antibodies (ANA)
Bone density tests
Complete blood count (CBC)
Computed tomography (CT) scan
Electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction studies
Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR)
Human leukocyte antigen-B27 (HLA-B27) testing
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
Myelography (Rarely used)
Read the Tests for Diagnosing Back Pain article > >
You have new numbness in your legs or numbness in your legs that is getting worse.
- You have new weakness in your legs or weakness in your legs that is getting worse. (This could make it hard to stand up.)
- You lose control of your bladder or bowels.
- You have new or increased back pain
with fever, painful urination, or other
signs of a urinary tract infection.
- You have long-term back pain that
suddenly gets much worse, and
you did not cause it by being more
- You have a history of cancer or
HIV infection, and you have new or
increased back pain.
- Pain wakes you from sleep.
more information, see the topic
Back Problems and Injuries.
Most low back pain doesn't require a visit to a
If the pain doesn't get better after 1 or 2
days and you can't do your normal daily activities, call your
If you still have mild to moderate pain after at least 2 weeks of home treatment, talk with your doctor. He or she
may want to check for problems that may be causing your back pain.
Who to see
The following health professionals can diagnose the
cause of back pain, evaluate back injuries, and start treatment.
You may also be referred to one of the following specialists:
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.