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Tuna Fish: The Red Flags of Low Back Pain

Tuna Fish: The Red Flags of Low Back Pain

How do you know when your back pain is just back pain and when it’s something more? Back pain is quite common among all people, but sometimes it’s more than stiff joints or an overactive workout. Learn more about the red flags of back pain with Spine Institute of North America.

What Is the Mnemonic for the Red Flags of Back Pain?

There’s an easy way to remember the common red flags of back pain. Many doctors will use the mnemonic device TUNA FISH to diagnose a patient with underlying back pain. Each letter in the word represents a different factor that could put you at higher risk for back-related issues:

  • Trauma: If you experienced a major trauma, like a car accident or sports injury, your back pain could be from a spinal fracture. Depending on your age, even minor traumas such as a fall can trigger concerns of conditions that weaken the bones, like osteoporosis.
  • Unexplained weight loss: This can point to several things, including a spinal infection or cancer. Seek treatment as soon as you notice this symptom.
  • Neurologic findings: This symptom commonly presents as weakness or numbness in your legs. This may point to a condition called Cauda Equina Syndrome, and as such, your doctor may ask you about other related symptoms, such as bladder and bowel incontinence. Neurologic findings can also indicate compression of the nerve root or spinal cord.
  • Age: If you’re experiencing back pain and are under age 18 or above age 50, consult with your doctor. If you’re an athlete, your pain likely points to a stress fracture. Otherwise, it could be a warning of many other things, ranging from kidney stones to cancer.
  • Fever: Back pain with fevers can suggest infection, especially if you have recently had surgery. Fever is a common symptom of both meningitis and spinal epidural abscesses.
  • Immunocompromised: You are at risk for many illnesses when you have a weakened immune system, and back-related infections are no exception.
  • Steroids: Using steroids or intravenous drugs puts one at greater risk for back infections and particularly spinal epidural abscesses.
  • History: If you have a history of cancer, HIV or tuberculosis, back pain can mean a serious complication or recurrence. Get treatment immediately.

Get Relief From Back Pain With Spine Institute of North America

At Spine Institute of North America, our practitioners are ready to help you get relief from your back pain. You can expect to get a new patient appointment within one week of making a request, so schedule an appointment today by calling 609-371-9100 or filling out our online form.

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