How accurate was your last diagnosis from Dr Google? Internet symptom checkers can be very convincing, allowing people to think they have this or that medical condition. But, for reliable diagnoses – and effective treatment – visiting a medical professional increases your chances of getting it right.

A good doctor can accurately identify a range of diseases that deceptively appear like run of the mill back pain to the untrained eye.

Without cause for alarm, here is a short list of illnesses where back pain points to unexpected health problems that deserve professional medical treatment.

Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is often expressed as upper back pain. When the spine becomes too weak to support body weight, the body tries to compensate for the heaviness causing tension and pain across the back. Other identifying features of the disease are curvature of the spine, and shrinking height over relatively short time spans.

Osteoporosis is an illness that needs to be taken seriously. It happens when the body cannot keep up the pace required to replace key nutrients in the bones, like calcium, leaving them brittle and highly susceptible to breaks. Treatment is essential because once a break occurs, a patient is statistically more likely to experience further breaks and fractures.s

Kidney stones
The kidneys are located on each side of the back, under the ribcage. Kidney stones, which are hard masses of salts and minerals, can develop in the kidneys and cause extreme pain when they are passed from the kidney to travel down the urinary tract. Cramping pain hits the back, and sometimes the abdomen and sides.

As long as the kidney stone is under 4mm, it can pass within two days and it helps to drink a lot of water during this time. If they are larger, the stones may have to be broken up into smaller pieces surgically.

Pelvic inflammatory disease
Back pain is an important symptom alerting doctors to pelvic inflammatory disease. Without treatment the disease can impact fertility from scarring on the reproductive organs and develop into different cancers.

The term, pelvic inflammatory disease, is a coverall term for pain stemming from a wide variety of causes, from viruses, fungal or parasitic infections and bacteria. With long term consequences, it is crucial not to dismiss symptoms as simply related to your usual menstrual cycle.

Retroverted uterus
The position of the uterus within the anatomy can be completely different from one woman to the next. There is nothing wrong or right about how the uterus sits in the body, however, a retroverted uterus can cause back pain. Because it is closer to the back, when the uterus is inflamed through menstrual cramps or endometriosis, the pain can spread through the lower back region.

Cancers
In an example of the worst case scenario, back pain may be a sign of cancer. In late stages of the illness, undetected cancers may have metastasised and spread throughout the body to the back. Or, back pain may be an early warning sign of tumours in male and female reproductive organs pressing against the spine. While it is rare to be alerted to cancer by back pain, it is worthwhile to act on the pain and get it checked out thoroughly by a GP just in case there is something very serious going on.

In many cases, back pain is going to be related to your musculoskeletal health, but not all the time. Back pain is a key symptom for a whole range of health issues, some quite serious. Rather than taking some pain killers and moving on, seeking medical advice can either help you exclude serious illnesses from your web-diagnosis, or ensure you receive proper treatment.