Back pain is a common, but powerful problem that really makes your life difficult. When you think of back problems, you probably think of muscle strains and injury. But there are other conditions, like infections, that can also lead to pain in your back and spine.
At Integrated Body and Medicine, we have all the necessary tools to help you combat the pain in your back, whatever the cause. Our expert providers diagnose the problem that’s causing your symptoms, even if it’s some kind of infection.
Symptoms of an infection
In many cases, back pain is related to an injury or a degenerative condition, such as arthritis. But in some cases, the pain in your back has nothing to do with getting hurt. Although spinal infections aren’t common, they can be difficult to diagnose based on symptoms alone.
The reason spinal infections are sometimes missed is because they don’t always present with body-wide symptoms, like a fever. In the early stages, the only sign of an infection you might have is back tenderness that doesn’t seem to get better.
As the infection progresses, more symptoms become apparent, which should clue you in that there’s a problem. Often, back pain is one of those symptoms, along with others like:
- Neck stiffness
- Bowel and bladder problems
- Redness or swelling
- Worsening pain
- Decreased mobility
Another clue that your pain isn’t normal back pain is that the discomfort doesn’t seem to get any better, even with rest and medications. In fact, the pain usually gets worse, especially with certain movements.
Types of spinal infections
Determining what’s causing your pain is the first step in figuring out what type of treatment is appropriate for your condition. Where anti-inflammatories may help a minor back condition, they aren’t as effective for a spine infection.
Although spine infections aren’t common, they do pose a significant risk because of the close proximity to your spinal cord. And untreated infections may lead to more severe health risks.
The following are four infections of the spine that could cause back pain:
This condition is an infection in the bones that protect your spinal cord. When you have a vertebral infection, you may experience such symptoms as muscle spasms in your low back and trouble walking. Vertebral osteomyelitis most often affects your lumbar spine.
Spinal epidural abscess
An epidural abscess most often occurs in your lumbar spine and is caused by an infection in the space around your spinal cord. This is the spinal canal, or epidural space. Symptoms of this condition range in severity and include back pain and spine tenderness.
Disc space infections
An infection around your intervertebral disc can occur on its own or after you undergo spine surgery. Although this type of spine infection is uncommon, it may lead to severe symptoms, which include fevers and pain in your back with movement.
Spinal cord abscess
A spinal cord abscess is a rare type of infection in your spinal cord. This infection happens on its own in your body. If left untreated, it may lead to severe spinal dysfunction and back pain with fevers.
Although these are infections in your spine, there are other infections as well that can cause similar symptoms. For example, kidney infections or pelvic inflammatory disease are other reasons for back pain.
When to see a doctor
If you’ve suffered from back pain before, you know it might go away on its own with rest and self-care measures. But with a spinal infection, your symptoms likely won’t get better with rest.
Although unrelieved back pain doesn’t always mean you have a spinal infection, you should seek help if your pain doesn’t go away within a week. There are other signs that alert you to the need for medical care, including:
- Severe pain at night
- Back pain with weight loss
- Weakness or tingling
- Pain down your legs
Call us if your back pain is accompanied by swelling or redness. This could signal a problem like a spine infection.
Other more serious concerns that mean you need emergency treatment include loss of bowel or bladder control or pain after significant trauma like a car accident.
The sooner you seek treatment for your back pain, the better the outcome. If your pain goes untreated and it’s the result of some kind of infection, that infection could spread to other parts of your body.
Back pain isn’t something you want to mess around with. If you need help, call our Highland, Indiana, office or schedule an appointment through our online system today.