80% of adults will experience back pain at some point in their life. The British Chiropractic Associated released data showing that prevalence of low back pain experienced every week by people in the UK has increased from 40% to 49% in the last 5 years. Most of the time, the cause is non-specific mechanical low back pain which occurs because of a variety of normal reasons such as leading a more sedentary life, gaining weight, or overdoing it at the gym. As a chiropractor, these are the most common causes of back pain in both the Bristol and Cheltenham clinics I work in. Usually one-off episodes of back pain last a day after having done the aggravating activity - e.g. sitting at your desk all day. In the UK, we are known for “just getting on with it’ or ignoring and accepting low back pain as a normal phase of getting older. 95% of people I see at Skelian Chiropractic Bristol and Cheltenham have back pain that is not at all worrying, however there are certain signs that if you are presenting with, I would urge you to speak to your GP or chiropractor to determine whether you need further investigation or not.


1. Low back pain with Severe Leg pain

This usually indicates sciatica. Sciatica occurs when one of the discs in your low back irritates the nerve and causes pain to go down the leg. Most of the time this is nothing to worry about, however treatment can really help relieve symptoms. 90% of patients we see with sciatica improve and respond well to treatment, however there is a small number that may require surgery. It’s worth speaking to your chiropractor as the sooner you get treatment, it may improve your prognosis. Treatment includes exercises which will help prevent further episodes.

2. Low back pain with Leg weakness and / or limping

Again, this could indicate that the nerve is being irritated, such as in sciatica. However, again it is worth getting it checked out by your chiropractor who will do further tests to determine whether it is something that needs to be investigated further with a scan.

3. You are experiencing balance problems with your back pain

As we age, we can develop balance problems due to a variety of different reasons. Osteoporosis is a condition that is common in women after the menopause. Osteoporosis can cause the bones to become brittle which increases the risk of fractures. Seeing your chiropractor or doctor we can work out whether the balance issue is connected to the back or if it is two separate issues. If you are experiencing balance issues, I really urge you to speak to somebody, as it would be worth doing exercises which help improve your balance, and in turn reduce the risk of falls.

4. Your Back pain is paired with a change of bowel and bladder issues.

This is a very important sign, and probably the most important. If low back pain paired with either one or all of the following symptoms, it requires urgent referral:

•Bowel / bladder incontinence - usually sudden, or not experienced ever before. Spotting of urine where previously this was not an issue could also be an early sign.
•Groin numbness
•Sudden inability to get an erection

low back pain

Any of these symptoms paired with low back pain could be a condition known as Cauda Equina Syndrome, a very rare condition where the nerves at the very bottom of the spine are compressed.
This is a medical emergency and we would refer you immediately to A&E for surgery. Time is of the essence with Cauda Equina, as studies have shown that after 48 hours of symptoms, recovery prognosis reduces significantly.

5. Low Back Pain with Symptoms and Pains all over the body

If you experience lower back pain with fever, chills and sweats it could indicate infection. Whilst this may be something simple as the flu, if it persists or you develop other symptoms such as a rash, it is worth seeing your doctor who can run some blood tests to see whether you have some other infection.

6. Back Pain which has persisted for more than 6 weeks.

This usually indicates that the pain is becoming chronic. It’s worth seeing your chiropractor as you don’t want the pain to persist further. I would also advise that if you are having a lot of recurrent short episodes of low back pain that you also seek treatment as this usually indicates that the issue is building and can lead to a sudden acute episode of back pain.

Overall, most back pain is straightforward and easily dealt with. I do think that if you are experiencing pain, it’s worth seeing somebody sooner rather than later. Back pain that has lasted longer can take longer to treat, however, we can always help the majority of people. If you are not sure or are at all worried about any symptoms you are experiencing, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Author's Bio: 

Mike is guest blogger, This article posting for skelian.