While most people find they can manage their back and related leg pain alone, some situations are better dealt with by involving a health care professional:
A first episode of severe, disabling pain lasting over two weeks
If you’ve never had this type of pain before and if you are unable to carry out even your easiest daily activities, you may want to call or visit your family doctor or another experienced care provider for information, advice and reassurance.
The presence of “red flags”
Your health care provider will take a detailed history of your problem, looking for ‘red flags’—a term used to describe signs and symptoms that may suggest you need more testing. For example:
- Recent significant trauma—the key word is “significant”. Backs are hard to hurt so the trauma will be something major, not picking up a sack of potatoes. The big exception is if you are an older postmenopausal woman or have osteoporosis; even a minor fall, bump or stumble should be reported.
- Unexplained fever.
- Unexplained weight loss, or a previous diagnosis of cancer.
Seek immediate medical attention if you experience one or more of the following symptoms along with back and back-related leg pain:
- Severe progressive weakness or numbness in one or both legs.
- Numbness in the genital area.
- A change in your ability to urinate (not being able to pass your water and then leaking without feeling it) or control your bowel movements (loss of control without being aware it has happened). This doesn’t include constipation.
Health care providers who can help
A number of different health care professionals provide information, advice, referral and treatment for common kinds of back and/ related leg pain. Tell me more…