‘Red flag’ warnings that back pain needs medical care

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Most causes of back pain don’t require immediate medical attention, but you should see a doctor right away if your pain is accompanied by any of these “red flags”:

• Weakness or pain in your legs, especially if it goes all the way down to your feet.

• Loss of bladder or bowel control.

• Fever or tenderness.

The first two could be a sign of neurological damage, caused by compression of the nerve roots at the lower end of the spinal cord. A fever or tenderness may signal an infection.

Also, if you have a history of cancer, back pain may be a sign that it has metastasized.

More: Tribune Co. coverage on the best remedies for relief, finding the source of pain and upcoming therapies