It's not as simple as it may seem to decide when back pain is something serious. When you're hurting, you may need to ask yourself multiple questions to determine exactly what's causing your discomfort, and if it's time to do something about it.
The BBC recently mentioned this aspect of muscular health in an article about back pain "myths". It specifically referred to the variety of factors that create back pain, including social and psychological ones. The implication is that back pain doesn't always equal damage, and that sufferers need to overcome stigma to get a precise reading.
This leads to the question of how long pain needs to persist before it becomes a problem. While this article recommends that anyone who has pain for more than six weeks see a physician, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has a different definition.
A fact sheet from this source said that chronic pain will last for at least 12 weeks, and develops among around 20 percent of those with acute back pain. If the pain lasts between four and 12 weeks, it's classified as subacute low back pain instead.
While a traumatic injury could be the cause, it's only one of many, some of which impact the spine directly. Other times, lower back pain could indicate a serious internal condition, like fibromyalgia, kidney stones or tumors, although the last one is relatively rare.
As with many medical issues, patients need to avoid both ignoring an issue or hyperfocusing on it too much. These are just some guidelines for distinguishing acute from chronic pain. Only a licensed professional chiropractor will be able to tell you for sure, so turn to them when you have real concerns.