Typically joint problems cause pain symptoms that can limit a person’s ability to run, participate in sports or recreational activities, or even perform simple activities of daily living like getting dressed or walking around.
The KNEE SYMPTOM CHARTS here provide guidance on the common knee problems and when to see a doctor.
The JOINT PAIN SYMPTOM CHART provides an overview of the various joint problems and when to see a doctor.
If you’ve had surgery for any joint problem recently, and you experience fever or other general health issues, or pain that is getting worse, see your physician promptly to be assessed for an injection or other issues.
Back & Neck Pain:
The vast majority of back problems improve on their own or with nonsurgical treatment. There are a few warning signs, however, that may indicate serious spinal problems. If you experience any of these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.
- Loss of control of the bowel or bladder. This is an emergency symptom and needs to be seen by a spine surgeon within 24 hours. See a spine surgeon or go to an emergency room if necessary.
- Weakness or numbness in a leg or arm implies a herniated disc that is compressing a nerve root. If not treated promptly the weakness or numbness could become permanent and lifelong. This includes "foot drop," a condition where the muscles of the leg and foot are too weak to raise the foot up as the individual attempts to walk. These symptoms need to be seen by a spine surgeon within a couple days. Treatment may include a spinal injection to relieve pressure on a nerve root. If that is not successful, surgery may be needed.
- If neck or back pain is accompanied by high fever, or if the eyes have sensitivity to light, the person should see a spine specialist promptly.
Other spine symptoms:
- Pain or tingling that radiates into the arm or leg is called “radicular pain” and can imply a herniated disc. This can respond to non-surgical treatment options in some cases. A person can use watchful waiting for a few weeks for mild radiating pain in the upper leg or upper arm, but should be assessed by a spine specialist. Waiting beyond a month can impact an optimal outcome with nonsurgical or surgical treatment.
- Pain limited to the low back or neck area. This can imply a back or neck strain which can be treated non-surgically with anti-inflammatory medications and customized stretches and therapy. In some cases, this symptom can be related to facet joint issues, which can be assessed by the spine specialist.