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Symptoms Chart

symptoms chart

 

The vast majority of back problems improve on their own or with nonsurgical treatment. There are a few warning signs, however, that may indicate serious spinal problems. If you experience any of these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.

Loss of control of the bowel or bladder and retention of urine may indicate damage to the spine's cauda equina nerves. The cauda equina is a bundle of nerves in the low back where the spinal cord ends. Damage to these nerves can be permanent if not treated immediately (within a day or so). See a spine specialist, or go to an emergency room if necessary.

Weakness or numbness in a leg or arm, especially if it is severe—and it is getting worse—also points to nerve damage. This includes "foot drop," a condition where the muscles of the leg and foot are too weak to raise the foot up as the individual attempts to walk. Again, nerve damage associated with these symptoms can be permanent if not treated immediately. This problem should be seen within 24 hours by a spine specialist.

Numbness, pain or tingling that radiates into the arm or leg is also a source for concern and should be seen within a few days by a spine specialist.

High fever accompanied by back pain may indicate a possible infection of the spine and should be treated within 24 hours.

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Rules of Thumb on Symptoms

Here's an encouraging back fact: 80 percent of the time, back and neck pain is simply a result of strain or soft tissue injury. In many of these simple cases of back or neck strain, your condition will improve with specialized exercises, rest, and anti-inflammatory medicine. Other times, you may need to see a doctor, perhaps even as soon as possible. Briefly, here are some rules of thumb to keep in mind about your back or neck problems:

Trauma - If you fall down, are in a car accident, or do anything abrupt that may have fractured your back, go to a spine specialty clinic within 24 hours.

Radicular pain - Anytime you have back or neck pain that radiates down into your leg or arm, you probably need to be evaluated by a spine specialist within two to three days, especially if it is getting worse.

Persistent pain - If pain limited to the low back or neck area does not begin to subside after three days with anti-inflammatories and rest, then you probably need to be evaluated by a spine specialist. For example, if you first noticed back or neck pain on Monday, and it's now Thursday, and it's not getting better, it's time to see a spine specialist to find out what is causing your problem.

Anytime you experience loss of control of your bowel or bladder, that is an EMERGENCY signal that you need to see a spine specialist THE SAME DAY. If you wait too long, you could suffer permanent paralysis of the nerves that control these functions.

Foot drop - If you notice that your toe is dragging as you walk, this is a DANGER SIGNAL for serious neurological problems. Again, if you delay, you could experience permanent damage. This problem should be seen within 24 hours by a spine specialist.

Weakness, numbness or pain that extends below a knee or elbow is a serious symptom. Go to a spine center within two days.
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Patient Success Stories
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Bob

Surgery repairs damaged disc and returns outdoorsman to activity.

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Paramedic gets back to life with Kenai Spine.

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Healthcare CEO back on the job after pain relieving spine surgery.

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School administrator recovers from back pain without surgery.

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Dog sled champion back on the trails after non-surgical treatment.

Educational Resources
Medical Animations

Watch various medical animations to learn about conditions and treatment options.

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View medical illustrations that help you understand pain symptoms.

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Learn about special exercises and stretches that can relieve pain and help rehab muscles and joints.

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Learn about minimally invasive surgery techniques that enable patients to go home the same day.

Where to find us

Kenai Spine is the only spine center in the State of Alaska to be included in Spine Center Network, an exclusive national listing of spine centers of excellence that meet credentialing criteria related to fellowship-trained spine surgeons; non-surgical Mayo Clinic-trained MD physical medicine specialist for back and neck pain; and affiliated spine therapists. With an office on the Kenai Peninsula, and two offices in Anchorage, Kenai Spine provides great convenience to those with back pain or neck pain problems who live around Anchorage, including Wasilla, Palmer, Eagle River and the Mat-Su Valley. Click here for directions to our Anchorage offices or our main office in Soldotna on the Kenai Peninsula.

Physician Bios
Medical Animations

S. Craig Humphreys, MD
Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon
Fellowship-Trained Spine Surgeon

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John L. Andreshak, MD
Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon
Fellowship-Trained Spine Surgeon

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Mark Simonson, MD
Board Certified in PM&R
Board Certified in Pain Medicine