To the doctor with back pain

Almost everyone experiences back pain at some point, especially in the lower back. This can seriously hinder daily life. Usually you just watch it for a while and it often goes away on its own. If it doesn’t improve or the back pain keeps coming back, it’s time to see a doctor. Usually it is not serious and no exact cause is found. What is very important is that you keep moving as much as possible. When should you go to the doctor and what will the doctor do?

Back problems

Everyone suffers from back pain at some point. Some people suffer from back pain more often or have chronic back problems. The pain is usually in the lower back and will disappear on its own. It almost always concerns non-specific back pain. This means that no physical damage or abnormality is found and that there is no clear cause for the back pain. However, back pain can be very annoying and hinder your daily functioning.

To the doctor

If the back pain does not improve or keeps coming back, it is wise to see a doctor. Even though no clear cause can usually be found, a serious condition can be ruled out in this way. In a rare number of cases there is something serious such as a hernia. A general practitioner visits many patients with back pain. Physiotherapy uses red and yellow flags when it comes to back pain.

Red and yellow flags

A general practitioner also works with red and yellow flags. Red flags are signals that indicate a serious back condition. Usually, a red flag does not indicate a serious condition, but this must first be determined with certainty. If a yellow flag is raised, it is immediately clear that it is not a serious condition and that you can continue with your daily activities, even if you tend to avoid the pain as much as possible. Doctors have made agreements about diagnosing back pain because it usually concerns non-specific back pain. Even though the cause cannot usually be determined, the best possible treatment must be provided.

The red flag

This is given if there is a possibility that there is damage to the back. The doctor will investigate this and usually there is nothing serious to worry about. The doctor pays attention to certain signals and complaints that could possibly be a reason for damage to the back. This is the case, for example, if there are symptoms of paralysis or loss of sensation in one or both legs. Fortunately, the doctor can usually rule out damage. If this is not the case, he will refer you to a specialist. Other symptoms that could mean there is a serious condition include:

  • Insensitive skin
  • Not being able to urinate
  • Loss of strength in one or both legs
  • You’ve had cancer
  • Sudden fever
  • Severe and incessant pain
  • Extreme weight loss without dieting

The research

After you have told us what the precise complaints are, a physical examination usually follows. The doctor usually asks additional questions to determine whether pain is radiating and to determine the exact location of the pain. During the physical examination, the position of the back and the effect of the pain on movement are examined. It is checked whether there is a hernia. If there is suspicion of a spinal collapse or bone fracture, you will be referred to a specialist.

Yellow flags

There are signs that your back pain is limiting you because you are trying to avoid the pain. There may also be certain emotions and fears that cause you to experience pain. Behavior also plays a major role in this. If you feel back pain, it is a very understandable reaction, but not the right reaction. We have taught ourselves to avoid pain signals as much as possible. It is precisely by avoiding exercise that the complaints become worse. This increases the chance that you will suffer from chronic back problems.

The signals

There are many signals that can indicate a yellow flag. As a result of the pain, you may have thoughts that prevent you from dealing with your back pain. You are unintentionally making things worse for yourself. Yellow flags are related to the following things:

  • The nature of the complaint
  • The feeling you have with your back pain (emotions)
  • How you feel about your back pain
  • And what the behavior is like as a result of back pain


If the doctor has identified a yellow flag, a treatment plan can be agreed that is appropriate for your situation. In most cases, there is no particular cause for your back pain and you focus mainly on your behavior. If your back pain is causing you to rest as much as possible and put as little strain on your back as possible, you should adjust this behavior by performing your normal daily exercise as much as possible. Thoughts play a major role in this, moving with back pain does not immediately mean that you will damage your back and become disabled.

read more

  • Back pain: various causes and what you can do about it
  • Back pain due to stress: what can you do about it?
  • Unexplained back pain: what to do?
  • Kyphosis: a forward curvature in the back