A few days back, I chopped up a bunch of wood from a 50 foot cherry tree that we cut down at my home. My neighbor Lowell brought over a couple of giant sledgehammers and a special log splitting wedge, and we got to work.

At first, I didn’t think much about it, other than realizing that what we were doing was HARD work. Wow… I had never swung a sledgehammer before, and we were smackin the heck out of that wood. It was beyond exhausting.

Within minutes I was dripping with sweat. 15 minutes went by and I had to take a break for some much needed water. 30 minutes in and we were both slumped over, breathing pretty heavy. I looked at the still massive pile of wood and thought, “Oh man, we’re only ½ way done. “

After 60 minutes, the job was finally done. All of the wood was chopped into stackable pieces and only then did I understand that I was not prepared for the physical burden I just placed on my back.

It’s like I hadn’t really paid attention during that hour of chopping. I was just in machine mode, mustering up every bit of strength and energy I had to push through. When we were done and I went inside to clean up, I realized that my back was hurting. Oh man, I definitely did something.

As the night went along, Ibuprofen seemed to do the job and keep the discomfort at bay. By morning though, I had a hard time pulling myself up out of bed. I’ve done it in the past, so I was pretty sure I had torn some of my back lower/mid back muscles, but I knew that I needed to see the doctor to be sure.

Back pain is one of the most common medical problems, affecting 8 out of 10 people at some point during their lives. The American Chiropractic Associations estimates that around 30 million Americans are experiencing back pain at any given time.

One-half of all working Americans admit to having back pain symptoms each year. In fact, back pain is one of the most common reasons for missed work, as back pain is the second most common reason for visits to the doctor’s office, outnumbered only by upper-respiratory infections.

Here’s the thing, most bouts of acute back pain resolve in time with simple therapies and over the counter medications, but you need to know when it’s time to see the doctor.

According to the Mayo Clinic, in rare cases, back pain can signal a serious medical problem. Seek immediate care if your back pain causes new bowel or bladder problems, is accompanied by fever, and/or follows a fall, blow to your back or other injury

You should contact a doctor if your back pain is severe and doesn’t improve with rest, spreads down one or both legs, especially if the pain extends below the knee, causes weakness, numbness or tingling in one or both legs and/or is accompanied by unexplained weight loss

Because I’ve hurt my back in the past, I felt comfortable with my decision to go to the doctor, but you should never second-guess yourself if you think that you may need to see a doctor. If you think you should, then you SHOULD!

I’m taking it easy, doing some stretching exercises, taking ibuprofen and some pain medication. Hopefully, I’ll be back up and feeling 100% in no time.

Until then, I’m staying away from that sledgehammer and renting a log splitter on the next go round.