Seeking help for back pain can be a daunting prospect; whether you’re a long-term sufferer or it’s a relatively new experience for you. It’s likely that your first port of call will be your GP, or if you’ve seen a specialist in the past perhaps your first thought is a local osteopath or chiropractor, but how do you know when your back pain has become a medical emergency?
The spinal cord carries nerves that affect everything from motor impulses from the brain to muscles, to sensory information from every part of the body to the brain. The spinal cord is protected by the vertebrae and discs in our spine to prevent direct injury to the cord, but if injury does occur – whether over time or as a sudden trauma – this can begin to affect vital bodily functions and can be classified in certain circumstances as a medical emergency.
What causes cauda equina?
So now we know what Cauda Equina Syndrome is, how exactly does it occur? Most commonly, it occurs as a result of a herniated disc. Although most cases of herniated discs will not touch the cauda equina, this is the most common way that it becomes impinged. It can also occur as a result of spinal stenosis in the lumbar spine, inflammatory conditions such as bony growths (bone spurs) in the lumbar spine, or as a result of an abscess that grows in the spine (usually as a result of post-surgical infection).
Very Sudden, Severe Back Pain
Most of the time, if you’re suffering with back pain it can refer pain or changes in sensation to other areas of the body such as the arms or legs – but a spinal dysfunction will rarely refer pain into the abdomen. If you’ve not suffered with back pain before, or perhaps you’ve only ever suffered with the odd ache or pain, and you’re all of a sudden experiencing an onset of severe lower back pain without any just cause (for example a recent trauma), you may have a medical condition in the abdomen that is referring pain into the lower back. Conditions such as an abdominal aortic aneurysm, can cause such severe pain that it can cause a patient to be doubled over in pain. So if you’re suffering with very severe pain without any indication of what could have caused it, it’s definitely worth getting checked out as a matter of urgency.
Knowing when to seek medical help can be daunting if you’re suffering with back pain, but above all knowing yourself and trusting your instincts can be life-saving in an emergency situation. If you’re based in London and you’re suffering from severe back pain that you’re not sure could be an emergency, we can help to point you in the right direction. If you’re not based in London we can still help if you’re not sure what to do.
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