When to Worry About Back Pain (5 Signs to Look For)

September 20, 2023

Is your sore back another sign of aging or something more serious?

In this article, you’ll learn when to worry about back pain.


After a certain age, it seems like everybody’s “check engine” light comes on. Your bunions are bothering you, you can’t eat or drink like you used to, and your back is constantly sore.

Many people may brush off this pain as normal (especially if they’ve been living with it for a while) and simply pop an anti-inflammatory and call it a day. But what if—just like your car’s check engine light—your back pain is a signal to see an expert?

If you’re unsure of when to worry about back pain, here are five signs to let you know when to seek medical treatment.


When to Worry About Back Pain

In many cases, back pain will go away on its own after the appropriate amount of rest. If you’re having some lower back pain the day after moving a bunch of heavy furniture, it’s not out of the ordinary and some rest and gentle stretching should do the trick. 

But it’s those other cases you need to worry about.

If your injury is not the kind that will heal by itself or you don’t know where it came from, you could even be worsening your condition by not seeking treatment right away. It’s not always easy to tell which kind of injury you have, but here are five examples of when to worry about back pain.

Man experiencing lower back pain after a car accident.

1. Back Pain After an Accident

The physical trauma your body undergoes during a car crash or similar accident is never something to brush off.

The abrupt forces involved in a vehicle accident can cause permanent damage, especially if they go untreated. Similarly, sudden back pain after a fall should not be written off. If you’ve had any sudden or traumatic accident, you should seek medical attention to make sure there are no underlying problems.

2. Back Pain You Can’t Explain

Back pain while breathing? Were you doing yard work yesterday? Rough-housing with the grandchildren over the weekend? That’s probably how you threw out your back. And if you were hunched over at your desk all day, shoulder and upper back pain tightness is to be expected. But if you wake up with unexpected pain that was definitely not there the night before, it’s probably worth scheduling an appointment.

Of course, even if you happen to know the pain was caused by getting hit with a motorcycle or falling down an entire set of stairs, you should probably call a doctor then, too.

3. When Back Pain Travels to the Limbs

Pain that originates in one part of the body but is felt in another part of the body is known as “referred pain.” Trigger points and misaligned joints are typical culprits for referred pain; these types of injuries will not go away on their own.

Shooting pains in your legs for example could indicate nerve compression in your spine, something that will only get worse without treatment.

Woman touching her upper back in pain.

4. You Feel Other Signs of Pain

Pain isn’t the only symptom you should be worried about. When your back pain is accompanied by chronic numbness, tingling, or weakness—especially in your limbs—can be just as concerning as feeling pain. (In fact, if feeling minor discomfort prevents you from urgently seeking medical care, it can be more damaging.)

Other signs of pain you should look out for are trouble sleeping, trouble urinating, fever, and unexplainable weight loss in concurrence with your back pain.

5. Your Back Pain is Chronic

Chronic back pain that lasts for more than six weeks should be looked at by a professional.

If you have given your body a chance to heal itself and your condition hasn’t changed, you will not see any benefits from continuing to wait. In fact, you could be allowing your injury to get worse.

Keep in mind, chronic pain doesn’t have to be extreme to warrant medical treatment. I have patients who experienced chronic, low-level pain for decades before experiencing nearly instant relief following a chiropractic adjustment.



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Don’t Ignore Signs of Pain!

Pain really is your body’s “check engine” light.

When you feel any sort of pain or discomfort, that’s a signal from your body that an injury has occurred. Sometimes the “injury” is minor muscle tears following an intense CrossFit session. Sometimes, however, it’s something a little more serious.

But even if the source of your pain isn’t a huge cause for concern (such as muscle soreness), you should know that no amount of pain is “normal” in an average, healthy human. The human body is not designed to function with pain, just as your car was not engineered to always have a check engine light on.

This doesn’t mean that every twinge will require surgery—far from it! Rather, there’s a good chance your pain can be treated quickly and easily…without resorting to drugs or surgery.


Chiropractor addressing a patient's back pain.

When Should I See a Doctor for Back Pain

No amount of pain is normal, so if you’re noticing signs of pain in your back that aren’t going away with medication, rest, or stretching, it’s time to seek medical attention.

It probably goes without saying, but the ER is not the best solution for everyday back pain. And your primary physician will likely prescribe some kind of opioid or other painkiller, which only masks the pain.

If you want to treat the source of the pain so that your body can work the way it was intended, consider seeing a chiropractor.

Chiropractors do so much more than simply “crack your back.” The goal of chiropractic adjustments is to restore your bones to their proper position and relieve the pressure on the nerves that causes your pain. Chiropractic treatment is holistic meaning we treat the source of your pain and not just your current symptoms.


Visit Oviedo Chiropractic for Back Pain Relief

By letting you know when to worry about back pain, we’re not looking to intimidate you. In fact, our goal at Oviedo Chiropractic is to give you hope. You don’t have to live with pain or discomfort any longer. You can experience real, complete healing from inside out!

If you live in the Central Florida area and have been living with back pain, schedule your chiropractic appointment today. After we do a full x-ray examination, our doctors will develop a treatment plan that is unique to you, so you can live your life to the fullest.

Justin Cough

Dr. Justin Cough, D.C.

Dr. Cough graduated from Palmer College of Chiropractic in Port Orange, FL after receiving his BS in Education from SUNY Oswego. Before becoming a chiropractor, he coached many middle and high school sports teams including football, lacrosse, basketball, and soccer. He is passionate about focusing on our bodies' natural healing mechanisms and helping his patients enjoy the utmost sustainability in their lives.

For some, chiropractic offers relief from pain. For others, it's about feeling and looking good. Call today and see what chiropractic can do for you!

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