• 1270 Broadcasting Road | Wyomissing, PA 19610
  • (610) 372-1140

Symptoms Chart

symptoms chart

Click here for a printable version of the red flag symptoms.

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.

Should you see a spine specialist?

Have you experienced any...

Loss of bowel/bladder control is an EMERGENCY symptom. You need to see a spine surgeon or go to an Emergency Room within 24 hours, or the symptom could become permanent.

Call our office IMMEDIATELY
(610) 372-1140

Numbness, pain or tingling into a leg or arm, especially when it extends below a knee or elbow, could imply a disc problem, and should be seen by a spine specialist within 2 days.

Call our office at (610) 372-1140 or request an appointment

Difficulty moving an arm or leg could imply a disc problem, and should be seen by a spine specialist within 2 days.

Call our office at (610) 372-1140 or request an appointment

Any traumatic fall or car accident could have fractured bones in your spine, or herniated a disc. You should see a spine specialist promptly who may perform X-rays to assess you.

Call our office at (610) 372-1140 or request an appointment

Neck pain with headache/nausea is an EMERGENCY symptom. See a doctor in 24 hours.

Call our office IMMEDIATELY
(610) 372-1140

Did the pain come on after lifting, or after aggressive exercise or sports activity?

Lifting or sports activities can strain muscles, ligaments & tendons, causing painful spasms. Extreme pain can require a spine specialist. Home remedies include anti-inflammatories like Advil/Nuprin, rest, ice and some simple stretching exercises. However, if symptoms don’t improve over 3 days, you need to be assessed by a spine specialist.

Call our office at (610) 372-1140 or request an appointment

Is the pain mostly in your low back, AND accompanied by a FEVER, or making you sick?

Pain in the low back, along with a fever, could be a kidney infection. You should see a spine specialist immediately.

Call our office IMMEDIATELY
(610) 372-1140

Back or neck pain that doesn’t radiate pain or numbness into a leg or arm can be caused by a variety of problems, including a strain of the muscles or ligaments in the back or neck.

Home remedies include anti-inflammatories like aspirin, Advil or Nuprin, rest, ice and some simple back/neck exercises. Don’t do any exercise that causes an increase in pain.

If pain persists you may need to see a spine specialist. Call our office at (610) 372-1140 or request an appointment

Remember: Those who self diagnose themselves and self treat themselves do so at their own risk. Back and neck pain can arise from a variety of causes and may require a spine specialist to perform diagnostic tests to identify your problem and the best treatment. A spine specialized therapist can also create a home exercise program customized for you.

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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The Reading Neck and Spine Center has developed a front/back Mini-Brochure containing valuable information for patients, referral sources, and case managers. The Mini-Brochure provides information about The Reading Neck and Spine Center, treatment for work related injuries, physician biographies, and resources for how to get back to life in 2016.

To view or print the mini-brochure, click here.

The Surgical Institute of Reading (SIR) is a physician-owned hospital. ALL OF THE ROOMS ARE PRIVATE at no additional cost to you. The nursing care at SIR is second to none with a high nurse to patient ratio. The Surgical Institute of Reading maintains approval by the Joint Commission on Hospital Accreditation, and a doctor is in-house 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

To learn more about SIR., please visit their website at www.sireading.com.

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Click here to view resource books on spine problems, what causes back pain, what causes neck pain and when to see the doctor.

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