Back Pain – 7 Potentially Fatal Causes

Your back hurts. So what? Everybody has a little back pain now and then.

But what if it could kill you?

Most people suffer back pain as the consequence of daily stresses on the structural sustain of the body: the bones, discs, muscles, and ligaments in and around the spine. Just as a car gets rusty with age, the human body succumbs to the effects of gravity over the years. Aches and sprains, muscle pulls and strains, are part of life from middle-age onward.

However, back pain may be the consequence of other abnormalities within the body, several of which can cause death, whether in minutes or years. It’s wise to think twice when your back starts hurting. Was it too much yardwork over the weekend or perhaps something else?

Here are 7 potentially fatal causes of back pain:

1. Aortic aneurysm. The large artery that carries blood away from the heart sometimes weakens with age and balloons outward, like a ineffective identify on a tire. If the aorta ruptures, enormous internal bleeding may occur, sometimes causing death within minutes. Fairly often the pain from a damaged aorta is felt the back. If the canal is stretching slowly with time, the pain may be chronic or intermittent in character. If the canal is rupturing quickly, the pain is usually intense and accompanied by other symptoms such as weakness, abdominal pain, and faintness. If you have a strange back pain, different than your usual pattern, it’s best to consult your doctor. If the pain is sudden and harsh, call 911.

2. Cancer and tumors. Both cancer originating in the bones of the back and cancer that spreads to the back from another location commonly cause back pain. A benign tumor of the spinal cord and vertebrae may also produce pain, as the enlarging mass presses on sensitive structures. The pain may occur with movement or at rest, but tends to worsen over time and may be harsh. Any back pain that persists or worsens with time should be professionally evaluated.

3. Infection. When bacteria move into the thorough structures of the body, such as the bones, discs, and spinal cord, serious infection may be later to. These infections are fairly uncommon and may go unrecognized until the time of action is quite progressive. Kidney and lung infections may cause back pain in addition, and are often dismissed as nothing more than a back strain. When any of these conditions is untreated, bacteria may go into the blood stream and cause sepsis, a potentially fatal infection of the blood. When infection is the cause of back pain, other symptoms may be present in addition, for example fever, nausea, and sweating. Again, see your doctor if these symptoms occur.

4. Pancreatitis. When the pancreas becomes inflamed for at any rate reason, the enzymes that are designed to help digest your food may begin digesting your own body instead. Usually this produces nausea, loss of appetite, and abdominal pain, but may produce back pain in addition. Pancreatitis may cause internal bleeding, dehydration, elevated blood sugar, electrolyte imbalance, dehydration, and death. Alcohol abuse and gallstones are among the shared causes. Call your doctor or go to the ER if you experience these symptoms.

5. Penetrating ulcer. Just as pancreatic juices may eat by the pancreas and other abdominal structures, so may stomach acid burn a hole by the duodenum or stomach. When this happens, internal bleeding occurs and the stomach contents spill into the abdominal cavity, where they cause further destruction and infection. The pain of an ulcer may be felt in the abdomen, the chest, or the back. Heartburn or stomach pain in association with back pain may be an indication of an ulcer and should be evaluated by a physician.

6. Inflammatory bowel disease. When the colon is inflamed the pain may be experienced in the abdomen, pelvis, or back. Inflammation may cause the bowel to perforate, similar to an ulcer, or cause a bowel obstruction. Either of these conditions is potentially fatal. Seek specialized care for any abdominal pain accompanied by back pain.

7. Pulmonary embolism. Blood clots usually form thorough inside the legs, where they may cause leg swelling, discomfort, and sometimes redness. When a clot dislodges and moves upward by the heart into the lungs, chest pain and/or back pain may occur, usually along with difficulty breathing. If the clot is large, it may obstruct air exchange and consequence in too little oxygen in the blood. Sudden onset of back pain associated with difficulty breathing may be a pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lungs) or already a heart attack. Don’t excursion yourself to the hospital – call 911.

The above examples illustrate that not all back pain is a simple matter. Fortunately, all of these conditions are fairly scarce. If you’ve found your symptoms on the list, seek prompt medical attention.

however, if you have the same back pain that you get every time you weed your garden or mop the floor, take an aspirin and call your doctor in the morning.

Copyright 2010 Cynthia J. Koelker, M.D.

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