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Dr. Mark Hosko, MD, July 22 2021

How Do You Know If Your Back Injury Is Serious?

Common Signs of Serious Back Injuries: Pain, Symptoms & Care

Back injuries are very common and unfortunately can lead to serious pain and discomfort. Symptoms of back pain may range anywhere from stiffness, pain to touch, swelling, or tingling. Whether you are having lower, mid, or upper back pain, it should not be left untreated. Back injury treatment should be performed by a back injury doctor or medical professional. There are different types of back injuries and symptoms that we should all be familiar with. So how do you know if your back injury is serious? Keep reading to learn more about back pain and back injuries.

What is considered a serious back injury?

Back injuries can range in terms of symptom severity and lasting effects. Severe back injuries may be inclusive of any breaks or fractures, severe wounds or bruising, spinal cord damage, and any injury inflicting damage to your internal organs.

Common causes of back pain include:

Signs of a serious back injury may often present in ways that we wouldn't expect. The following signs and symptoms can be telling of a serious back injury, and should not be ignored:

How do you know if back pain is muscle or disc?

One of the most common concerns that arise when one is suffering from back pain is whether it is a muscle strain or a herniated disc. It is always recommended to seek medical attention when you are suffering from back pain, regardless of the injury type.

Muscle strains and sprains can be a result of overexertion or even everyday activities such as playing sports, running, lifting, etc. Pain from muscle strains and sprains may remain localized to the area of injury. A herniated disc is typically the result of long term wear and tear. Oftentimes, a herniated disc injury presents with symptoms that extend beyond just the area of the injury itself. Herniated discs may result in tingling, numbness, and weakened control of surrounding muscles and extremities. For example, one may feel a tingling sensation down their leg. In more severe cases, muscle weakness resulting from a herniated disc can cause one to lose control of their bowels and bladder, and is a sign to seek immediate medical attention. A herniated disc oftentimes presents pain when both bending forward and amongst returning back to sitting up right. Identifying the source of a back injury can be difficult to do, especially when one is in pain. It is always recommended to seek a proper medical treatment plan for your back injury.

Do back injuries heal themselves?

While some minor back injuries may get better with rest and time, seeking medical attention to properly diagnose your injury is always advised. If you are experiencing back pain you should avoid heavy lifting or any activities that may strain your back. Some back injuries can be treated at home while others may require long-term professional injury treatment or physical rehabilitation. You only get one back so it’s best to consult a medical professional to determine an appropriate treatment plan.

What symptoms associated with back pain should prompt you to see a doctor?

As we have discussed, identifying the source of your back injury can be difficult to do, especially when you are in pain. Seeking a medical evaluation from a doctor is never a bad idea when it comes to a back injury. A doctor may be able to perform tests to rule out infection, or other serious conditions that present with back pain. If you are experiencing a loss of normal movement and are having trouble with everyday activities, your back pain should be evaluated. Other symptoms such as numbness, tingling, and weakness of lower extremities is also a sign that you should take a trip to your doctor to seek a medical evaluation. Leaving back pain unaddressed can result in further injury and increased pain. Seeking treatment and identifying proactive recovery plans are the best way to ensure that your back heals, your pain reduces, and you are able to perform your day to day activities.

When to go to urgent care for back pain?

If you have ever experienced back pain or a back injury, you may have wondered if your pain warranted a trip to urgent care. While there are some symptoms that should absolutely result in a trip to urgent care, it never hurts to err on the side of caution when it comes to back pain. Seeking appropriate care for your back pain is critical in the healing process. You should seek medical attention at an urgent care if you experience numbness or tingling or if you have back pain:

Never delay care because you are unsure if you need medical attention. Identifying a treatment plan early for your injury is critical in the healing process.

What can urgent care do for severe back pain?

When going to urgent care for severe back pain, here is what you may expect. Typically, an urgent care team would first work to provide you pain relief from whatever has caused your back pain. This may involve the use of medications when appropriate. A medical provider may then run diagnostic tests such as an x-ray or imaging to further identify the cause of the pain. In some cases, the use of further blood and urine tests may be utilized. Upon further understanding of the scope of your back injury, an urgent care team may then provide a treatment plan or direct you to seek additional medical care. Treatment plans may involve additional medication, therapy, and rest depending on the extent of the injury.

How long does it take to heal from a serious back injury?

The amount of time it takes to heal from a serious back injury is dependent on multiple factors. Serious back injuries may result from, and be worsened by, varying components. Because of this, identifying an exact timeline of healing can be challenging. The time it takes to heal is very much dependent on one's treatment plan and ability to refrain from activities that worsen the injury. While mild back injuries may resolve within days to weeks, some severe back injuries may take over a few weeks or months to heal from. The healing duration time may be lessened if one sticks to their recommended treatment plan and avoids things such as over exertion, leading to a worsened injury.

Why choose Portland Urgent Care for Back Pain?

From medical exams, to treatment plans, to pain management, Portland Urgent Care offers a comprehensive care plan to address your specific back pain needs. Because we understand that finances should never get in the way of living a healthy and pain free life, Portland Urgent Care accepts most insurance plans and provides discounted rates to those who pay at the time of service.

Here are Portland Urgent Care (in partnership with Portland Wellness Care), we recognize that not all back injuries are the same. We work to offer each patient the right care plan that suits the level of severity of their injuries. We provide integrative injury rehab services with Portland Wellness Care (physiotherapy, chiropractic, acupuncture, and massage) to address your back pain needs. Our customized care for back pain may be inclusive of:

Medical Exams: At Portland Urgent Care, we will work to give you peace of mind in knowing the extent of your injury. We may run diagnostic tests inclusive of an x-ray and in some cases, blood or urine tests.

Customized treatment plans: Our side by side clinics allow us to offer complete treatment plans, customized to suit your injury extent and care preferences. We utilize western medicine complemented with alternative approaches such as physiotherapy, massage, acupuncture, and chiropractic services.

Back pain management: With our side by side clinics, Portland Urgent Care and Portland Wellness Care are able to provide you ample care services to aid in the management of your pain. Having a pain management plan in place is critical on your road to recovery from any type of back pain or injury. Utilizing medication and our alternative care approaches may improve your quality of functioning while healing from your injury.

Back pain exam from a Chiropractor: Our Chiropractic services involve a direct approach of focusing on adjusting your spinal joints, along with exercise rehabilitation and other physical medicine modalities.


Back injuries can present in a variety of ways. Regardless of how minor or severe, any back pain, discomfort, or abnormal symptoms should not be left ignored. After an accident, symptoms of an injury may not appear for a few hours or even the next day. Seeking medical attention early on can reduce the long term impacts of your injury. While many may try to push through mild pain, it is important to recognize the need for treatment and don’t assume the pain or injury will go away on its own. Visiting Portland Urgent Care will give you peace of mind in understanding the extent of your back injury, and is the right place to receive your diagnosis and treatment plan.

Portland Urgent Care’s team of top-rated medical professionals can provide temporary, short-term, or long-term treatment for back injuries. We can also provide physical therapy, chiropractic care, acupuncture, and massage therapy.

For more information on injuries, see our related blogs:

Common Causes & Effects of Neck Injuries

Neck Injury Treatment

Types of Back Injuries

Types of Ankle Injuries

Common Types & Causes of Knee Injuries

How To Treat & Recover From Knee Injuries

Wrist Ligament Injuries

Wrist Injuries Causes & Treatment

Difference Between Sprains vs Strains

What Is A Laceration Wound?

Written by

Dr. Mark Hosko, MD

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