Tag Archives: symptoms

When is back pain an emergency?

SUSAN LOCKE helps readers understand when low back pain is and isn’t an emergency . . .


Most cases of low back pain don’t require urgent care, but patients should seek a doctor immediately if they experience low back pain as a result of severe trauma, or if low back pain is accompanied by any of the following four situations.

1. Progressive leg weakness and/or loss of bladder or bowel control. These symptoms may be “cauda equina” syndrome where there is severe compression of the nerves in the lower spine. Left untreated, cauda equina syndrome can result in permanent paralysis, loss of sensation in the areas below the lumbar spine and loss of bladder/bowel control.

2. Unexplained weight loss, loss of appetite, pain and neurological problems. These symptoms may be indicative of a spinal tumor.

3. Severe, continuous abdominal and lower back pain. This could be symptoms of an abdominal aortic aneurysm.

4. Sustained fever and increased pain. These symptoms are consistent with spinal infection (osteomyelitis).

A diagnosis will typically classify the patient’s condition as one of three types of pain. Patients can experience one type, and based on the progression of their condition, may experience another.

• Low back pain, the most common type of back pain, is confined to the lower back only and does not travel into the buttocks or legs. The pain may be sharp or dull and may be severe enough to limit everyday activities. Pain may worsen with certain activities (such as sports) or physical positions (such as sitting for long periods) and is relieved by rest. Most low back pain is acute (short-lived and heals within six to 12 weeks).

• Sciatica is the second most common type of pain caused by a lower back problem. Caused by conditions that compress the nerve roots of the sciatic nerve, the pain is more severe in the leg than in the back. Symptoms are pain, numbness and/or weakness in the lower back and on only on one side of the lower body, affecting the buttock, leg, foot, or the entire length of the leg.

• Low back pain with referred pain that radiates to the groin, buttock and upper thigh, but rarely below the knee. Patients describe the pain as dull and achy with varying intensities. Low back pain with referred pain is similar to axial pain and is managed with similar treatments.

Treatment for lower back pain depends upon the patient’s history and the type and severity of pain. The vast majority of lower back pain cases get better within six weeks without surgery, and lower back pain exercises are almost always part of a treatment plan.

If pain persists or worsens, more involved diagnostic and surgical procedures may be recommended. Rest for a few days to allow injured tissue and nerve roots to begin to heal. Heat and ice packs help relieve most types of low back pain by reducing inflammation. Over-the-counter medications and prescription medications are available to help reduce symptoms of lower back pain.

SUSAN LOCKE, MD, is Healthnetwork Foundation’s medical director.

HEALTHNETWORK is a Legatus membership benefit, a healthcare “concierge service” that provides members and their families access to some of the most respected hospitals in the world. One Call Starts It All: (866) 968-2467 or (440) 893-0830. Email: help@healthnetworkfoundation.org

50 common signs of stress

Stress can affect every aspect of your life. Here are some tips to spot problems . . .

Whether you are experiencing stress due to a recent situation or you have been experiencing stress for a long time, your body and mind may be experiencing different symptoms. Here are some warning signs that stress is affecting your body and mind.

1. Frequent headaches, jaw clenching or pain
2. Gritting or grinding teeth
3. Stuttering or stammering
4. Tremors, trembling of lips, hands
5. Neck ache, back pain, muscle spasms
6. Lightheadedness, faintness, dizziness
7. Ringing, buzzing or “popping” sounds
8. Frequent blushing, sweating
9. Cold or sweaty hands, feet
10. Dry mouth, problems swallowing
11. Frequent colds, infections, herpes sores
12. Rashes, itching, hives, goose bumps
13. Unexplained or frequent allergy attacks
14. Heartburn, stomach pain, nausea
15. Excess belching, flatulence
16. Constipation, diarrhea
17. Difficulty breathing, sighing
18. Sudden attacks of panic
19. Chest pain, palpitations
20. Frequent urination
21. Poor sexual desire or performance
22. Excess anxiety, worry, guilt, nervousness
23. Increased anger, frustration, hostility
24. Depression, frequent or wild mood swings
25. Increased or decreased appetite
26. Insomnia, nightmares, disturbing dreams
27. Difficulty concentrating, racing thoughts
28. Trouble learning new information
29. Forgetfulness, disorganization, confusion
30. Difficulty in making decisions
31. Feeling overloaded or overwhelmed
32. Frequent crying spells or suicidal thoughts
33. Feelings of loneliness or worthlessness
34. Little interest in appearance, punctuality
35. Nervous habits, fidgeting, feet tapping
36. Increased frustration, irritability, edginess
37. Overreaction to petty annoyances
38. Increased number of minor accidents
39. Obsessive or compulsive behavior
40. Reduced work efficiency or productivity
41. Lies or excuses covering up poor work
42. Rapid or mumbled speech
43. Excessive defensiveness or suspiciousness
44. Problems in communication, sharing
45. Social withdrawal and isolation
46. Constant tiredness, weakness, fatigue
47. Frequent use of over-the-counter drugs
48. Weight gain or loss without diet changes
49. Increased smoking, alcohol or drug use
50. Excessive gambling or impulse buying

Recognize any of these symptoms? To take control of stress, you need to accept responsibility for the role you play in creating or maintaining it. The first step is to identify your stressors, while looking at your habits, attitudes and excuses:

• Smoking
• Drinking excessively
• Over-eating or under-eating
• Using recreational drugs to relax
• Sleeping too much
• Procrastinating
• Withdrawing from family, friends and activities
• Anger outbursts

Here is a simple formula for dealing with stressful situations – the four “A’s”:

Avoid the stressor: Learn to say no. Avoid people who stress you out. Take control of your environment. Shorten your To-Do list. Distinguish between “must” and “should.”

Alter the stressor: Express your feelings. Be willing to compromise. Be more assertive. Prioritize.

Adapt to the stressor: Reframe the problem (adopt a more positive perspective). Look at the big picture (focus on the positive). Adjust your standards (perfectionism is a major source of avoidable stress).

Accept the stressor: Look for the upside. Share your feelings. Learn to forgive. Don’t try to change the uncontrollable.

Dr. Susan Locke

Dealing with stress often means counteracting stress with these de-stressing tips:

• Set aside daily relaxation time, meditate
• Take vacations, get enough sleep
• Practice progressive relaxation
• Relax your breathing
• Strengthen relationships
• Exercise regularly
• Eat a healthy diet
• Reduce caffeine and sugar
• Avoid excessive alcohol
• Avoid smoking, recreational drugs
• Get professional advice
• Cognitive/behavioral therapies
• Biofeedback
• Medications
• Schedule an executive physical and consult with medical experts

If you feel that stress is having a negative impact on your health, the best tool we can recommend is an executive physical. Call Legatus Healthnetwork today to schedule yours!

Susan Locke, MD, is Healthnetwork Foundation’s Medical Director.

Healthnetwork is a Legatus membership benefit, a healthcare “concierge service” that provides members and their families access to some of the most respected hospitals in the world. One Call Starts It All: (866) 968-2467 or (440) 893-0830. Email: help@healthnetworkfoundation.org