Doctor and patient talking about back pain

Back pain: When should I go to the doctor?

Over four out of five adults in the UK experience back pain at least once in their lives.      

Most of the time, a good stretch, some low-impact exercise, and changing how you sleep are enough to relieve your symptoms.

However, when is it time to book an appointment with your GP or go to the hospital? Here are some of the symptoms to look out for.

Your back pain won’t go away

Back pain typically comes and goes.

However, if you’re experiencing persistent pain for longer than two weeks, a doctor will look at why this is the case.

Your pain is extending down into your legs

Back pain shouldn’t shoot down through your buttocks and into your leg.

If this is the case, a number of conditions might be to blame, including sciatica. This is an irritation of the nerve that runs from your pelvis to your feet.

You have numbness in your arms or legs

If your back pain is accompanied by numbness or tingling in your arms or legs, it’s best to see a doctor.

This may indicate a pinched nerve, an issue with your spinal cord, or a circulatory problem.

You have a fever

Back pain coupled with a fever and chills can be signs of an infection, possibly of the spine or kidneys.

A doctor can analyse your symptoms and prescribe the right course of treatment.

If you’re in the late stages of pregnancy

Back pain is common in pregnancy, with up to 80% of women experiencing it.

If you feel intense back pain and cramping in the third trimester, it could be a sign of labour.

Your pain is stopping you from your day-to-day activities

While back pain is frustrating, it shouldn’t prevent you from living your life.

If your back pain stops you from working, leaving the house, or carrying out everyday tasks, you should book an appointment to see your GP.

You have back pain after an injury or accident

If you have a back injury caused by a fall, car accident, or sports injury, it’s essential to get it checked out as soon as possible.

A doctor can make sure you don’t have any fractures or slipped discs caused by impact.

Other symptoms to be aware of

If you experience back pain alongside any of these other symptoms, we recommend seeing your doctor.

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Loss of control in your bowel and/or bladder
  • A swelling, lump, or deformity in your back
  • Problems with your eyes, including blurry vision and sensitivity to light
  • Pain that wakes you up during the night

If you have a condition like cancer or diabetes, it’s especially important that you get any symptoms looked at.


No one knows your body the way you do.

If something doesn’t feel right, it’s better to get it checked out for your peace of mind.

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