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Back Pain - What Are The Red Flags?

Back Pain - What Are The Red Flags?

Back pain is a common ailment that many of us experience at some point in our lives. While most cases are temporary and can be managed with rest and self-care, there are instances where back pain may signal more serious underlying issues. As an osteopath dedicated to promoting spine health, let's explore some red flags that should not be ignored when it comes to back pain.

  1. Persistent or Worsening Pain: If your back pain persists for more than a few weeks or is progressively getting worse despite rest and conservative measures, it's crucial to seek professional attention. Persistent pain may indicate an underlying structural issue that requires thorough examination.

  2. Pain That Radiates Down the Legs: Back pain accompanied by pain, tingling, or numbness radiating down one or both legs could be a sign of nerve compression. This could be caused by conditions such as a herniated disc or spinal stenosis, which may require specialised treatment.

  3. Sudden and Severe Pain: The sudden onset of intense and severe back pain, especially after an injury or trauma, should not be ignored. This could be indicative of a fracture, muscle tear, or other acute issues that need immediate attention.

  4. Loss of Bowel or Bladder Control: Any loss of control over bowel or bladder function associated with back pain is a severe red flag. This could signal cauda equina syndrome, a rare but serious condition requiring emergency medical intervention.

  5. Fever Accompanying Back Pain: Back pain accompanied by a fever may suggest an underlying infection, such as a spinal abscess or discitis. Infections affecting the spine can be serious and require prompt medical evaluation.

  6. Pain in Individuals with a History of Cancer: Individuals with a history of cancer who experience new or persistent back pain should be vigilant. Back pain can be a symptom of metastasis, and early detection is crucial for effective treatment.

  7. Unexplained Weight Loss: If you are experiencing unexplained weight loss along with back pain, it could be a sign of a systemic issue. Conditions such as cancer or autoimmune disorders may present with these symptoms and should be investigated promptly.


While many cases of back pain resolve with time and self-care, it's essential to recognise when your body is signalling a more serious problem. Ignoring red flags could lead to delayed diagnosis and treatment, potentially exacerbating the issue. If you experience any of these warning signs, don't hesitate to consult with a healthcare professional, such as an osteopath, who can conduct a thorough assessment and guide you towards the most appropriate course of action. Your spine health is a priority, and being proactive about addressing red flags ensures a healthier and pain-free future.

For further NHS guidance on back pain and what to do please visit their website here.

If you would like to book an appointment with one of our osteopaths then click here.

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