Is My Pain Serious?

How do you know whether your pain needs to be evaluated by your chiropractor? This is the age-old question. The answer needs to be specific to your particular problem, rather than a one-size-fits all solution. But there are good guidelines that everyone can follow.
First, is your pain deep and boring (that is, does the pain feel like it's boring into you)? Deep and boring pain usually means something is seriously wrong. If you're woken up at night by this type of pain, a visit to your chiropractor or family physician is in order. Kidney stones and inflamed gallbladders are common causes for deep, boring pain that causes a person to awaken from sleep. Severe heartburn is in this category, too, and should be evaluated by your doctor.
But these types of problems are easy to categorize. You'll probably know, instinctively, that something is wrong. Musculoskeletal pain is rather more difficult to analyze. For example, you lean over in a twisting motion to grab the glass of water on your nightstand and you feel a sharp pain in your lower back. Next morning you have great difficulty getting out of bed. Your lower back is stiff and sore. What should you do?1,2
Your best course of action will be based on a self-assessment. If you're experiencing pain that radiates down your leg, or numbness or tingling sensations traveling down your leg, you should call your chiropractor's office and ask to be seen right away. Or, if you don't have any radiating pain, but sneezing or coughing does provoke a radiating sensation, take the same action. Similarly, the amount of pain you're having will determine what you do. If the pain is severe, see your chiropractor.
If none of these criteria are present, decision-making gets a bit murky. How you handle your problem will depend on your tolerance for pain. If you have low tolerance, make an appointment to see your chiropractor and get some expert treatment. If you have a higher pain threshold, you might still call for an appointment just to make sure that nothing is seriously wrong. Certainly, if you haven't improved at all after 48 hours, you need to see your chiropractor.
There is another important scenario. If you have a medical condition such as cancer, an endocrine disorder, or a systemic infection, a sudden occurrence of back pain needs immediate attention, regardless of how or why you think the pain occurred.3 This is not to be an alarmist, but rather the recommendation is based on precaution. If there is an existing problem, then new issues need to be looked at closely, just to be sure.
These guidelines provide a sound basis for decision-making, but please remember they are just that - guidelines. Each person needs to be comfortable with their own process. And, of course, it's always much better to be safe than sorry. Your chiropractor is always available to help you sort out these kinds of problems.
1Smart KM, et al: The discriminative validity of "nociceptive," "peripheral neuropathic," and "central sensitization" as mechanisms-based classifications of musculoskeletal pain. Clin J Pain 27(8):655-653, 2011
2Arendt-Nielsen L, Graven-Nielsen T: Translational musculoskeletal pain research. Clin Rheumatol 25(2):209-226, 2011
3Casazza BA: Diagnosis and treatment of acute low back pain. Am Fam Physician 85(4):343-350, 2012

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Testimonials

Reviews By Our Satisfied Patients

  • "I have been a patient since 1989. Fantastic, caring, and compassionate staff."
    Valerie Hebert
  • "Great providers who focus on the care you need. Always willing to do what it takes to make you feel better! Scheduling is easy and they have a broad range of times to fit with work schedules."
    Josie Gillette
  • "Very lucky to be a patient here , Dr.Blackman and Dr.Matheson always remember everything about my care here and make me feel like family. Thank you very much to the whole staff who are always super friendly and help me make appointments with my crazy schedule !"
    Devin Karkos
  • "Friendly staff, great doctors! I have seen Dr Blackman and Dr Matheson for a few years now. I feel like I new person everytime I leave their office!"
    Diana Babel
  • "Everyone at Blackman Chiropractic is very friendly and professional. The staff walks you through step by step, and Doctor Tom is very informative and professional. I left feeling relieved from joint pain, and I am very excited about my next appointment. Thank you Blackman Chiropractic for fitting me in last minute. I would highly recommend Blackman Chiropractic!"
    Lee Clouthier
  • "It has been 22 years now. I hurt my back at work. The pain was unbearable. I had never experienced anything like it before. A friend of mine asked his Chiropractor if he knew anyone in my area that I could see. He only gave one name. Dr. Blackman. Before I knew it, Dr. Blackman called me on the phone, on a Sunday night no less! He told me to come in the next day and he would examine me. But it was the following sentence that meant the most. “If I can’t help you, I will at least point you in the right direction” What more could I ask! So started a long journey. 5 days a week, then 4, then 3, then 2, then once a week. Now, I go once every 3 weeks for general maintenance. Thanks Dr. Blackman to You and your great staff for all your great care. The one thing about back pain is that recovery is slow. You have to be patient and trusting. Remember, taking pain pills are not a long term solution! I highly recommend Dr. Blackman and his staff!!"
    DAVID SNOOK
  • "Before a week ago, I’d never been to a chiropractor and was terrified of any sort of doctors office. A coworker recommended this place and I’m so happy he did! Everyone is super welcoming, and my back feels the best it has in years!"
    Katherine Wysocki
  • "I've had several visits, and finally I've gone days without pain. I have not had this feeling in years due to. Dr. Blackman."
    Marc P.
  • "I fully recommend Dr. Blackman and his colleagues for anyone with back pain. I have been extremely satisfied with the results."
    Terry M.
  • "Excellent and caring staff that are very attentive to your condition and address your issues and concern professionally."
    Marybeth G.
  • "Friendly caring staff. They really care about you."
    Brenda L.