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See Your Doctor Immediately for These Back-Related Symptoms

Part of the Treating Your Back & Neck Pain For Dummies Cheat Sheet (UK Edition)

You can self-manage most episodes of back or neck pain, but the following warning signs may indicate more serious problems that your doctor needs to check:

  • You can’t control your bowel or bladder. If you suddenly lose control of your bowel or bladder, see your GP or go to your local hospital accident and emergency (A&E) department immediately. Bowel or bladder problems include the following:

    • You can’t control or initiate urination or bowel movements.

    • You have no feeling in your groin and/or anal area.

    • You’re male and you can no longer get an erection.

  • Your legs or feet are weak. If you experience significant weakness in your legs and feet, see your GP or go to A&E within 24 hours.

  • Your back or neck pain awakens you at night. This type of pain – called rest pain – involves severe throbbing and aching that worsens with rest.

  • You experience significant trauma such as a car accident or a fall. If you suffer a significant trauma that causes or contributes to your back or neck pain, you need to see your GP or go to A&E.

  • Your pain is excruciating. If your back or neck pain is simply unbearable or your pain increases significantly, see your GP or go to A&E immediately. Excruciating is a subjective term, but if your pain’s so bad that you can barely move or you’re on the verge of tears, don’t be tough – have the pain checked out.

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Treating Your Back & Neck Pain For Dummies Cheat Sheet (UK Edition)

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