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One Mercado Street, Suite 200 Durango, CO 81301
Phone: 970.382.9500
Fax: 970.375.0007


Numbness and other emergency symptoms

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Numbness occurs when nerve impulses do not travel properly from the skin to the brain. A person experiencing back problems may also experience numbness in other parts of the body, especially into the legs and feet or in the case of a neck problem, into the arm and hand. While it is okay to use watchful waiting for pain that radiates into a arm or leg, this is NOT the case with numbness. If you ignore numbness into an arm or leg, there can be permanent paralysis of those nerves, making numbness permanent.

While an individual cannot self-diagnose internal medicine or heart problems, a sore back is self-apparent. You may be interested to learn, incidentally, that pain is a poor indicator of what went wrong in your back. A muscle strain, for example, can be more painful than a herniated disc.

When a back specialist examines you, she or he will be looking for other tell-tale symptoms that might imply if a disc is affected. Pain that radiates from the back down into the leg, even into the bottom part of the leg, can imply a disc problem.

Another sign of a potential disc problem is called foot drop, where the patient is unable to raise the front of their foot. This muscle weakness may cause the person to drag the toe. Foot drop needs to be seen by a spine specialist immediately to prevent permanent nerve damage.

The worst symptom is cauda equina syndrome — loss of control of the bowel or bladder. If you notice this symptom, go to an emergency room immediately (the same day) to prevent permanent neurological damage and paralysis of those bowel muscles. If doctors determine this symptom is caused by a disc problem, surgery will need to be done to prevent permanent damage to nerves.

Generally speaking, if you have any of the serious symptoms listed above, or back pain that doesn’t do away on its own after about three or four weeks, you may want to visit a spine physician just to rule out anything serious.

Click here to view more information about your pain symptoms and what they mean.







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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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