That is a good question. Back pain is a very common symptom. Most people will have back pain at some time during there life. That said not all back pain is created equal. Back pain can be good, bad or ugly.
The development of back pain may be a warning from your body that your are straining your back and about to damage it. This type of back pain can be considered good because it may prevent a more serious injury. Back pain from injured or herniated disk, or fractures may be bad. It can cause pain in your back, buttocks, hips, groin and down the legs. It may be associated with numbness, tingling, weakness and bowel and bladder dysfunction. Yes a bad disk or fracture may cause you to be incontinent of bowel movements and urination or retain them and not be able to go. Less serious cause of bad back pain is facet arthritis also called facet arthropathy. Back pain can get really ugly when it is caused by an infection or cancer. It can cause weight loss, fever, chills and sweats (called systemic symptoms) and if goes untreated may be life threatening.
Therefore it depends on how your back pain started and if it is associated with anything. If you simply pulled your back lifting and have no other neurological problems or systemic symptoms then physical therapy is the best place to start, but if you do have other bad or ugly symptoms or fail physical therapy then you should get an MRI scan.
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