None specific and mechanical back pain
The majority of back pain suffered is not serious and can be helped with minor intervention and at home management.
Most back pain falls into the category of “non-specific back pain” (there’s no obvious cause and it is likely a number of factors create this pain) or “mechanical” (the pain originates from the joints, bones or soft tissues in and around the spine).
This type of back pain:
- The pain is usually position or movement related – for example, it may ease lying down or get worse on prolonged standing.
- The pain typically feels worse when moving or changing position.
- There is no onset pattern, it can develop suddenly or gradually.
- May sometimes be the result of poor posture or lifting an object, but often occurs for no apparent reason.
- May be due to a minor injury such as sprain (pulled ligament) or strain (pulled muscle)
- Can be associated with feeling stressed, tired or run down.
- Will usually start to get better within a few days or weeks.
Medical conditions that cause back pain
Conditions that can cause back pain include:
- A slipped (prolapsed) disc – this can cause local back pain and if associated with a nerve root compression it can also create numbness, tingling and weakness in other parts of the body, typically one arm or leg, but not always
- Sciatica (irritation of the nerve that runs from the lower back to the feet) – this can cause linear pain, numbness, tingling and weakness in the lower back, buttocks, legs and feet.
- Brachial neuritis (irritation of the nerves that run from the neck to the fingers) – this can cause pain, numbness, tingling and weakness in the neck, shoulder blade, arm and hand.
- Ankylosing spondylitis (inflammation of the joints in the spine) – this causes pain and stiffness in the mid back that’s usually worse in the morning and may improve with movement
- Spondylolisthesis (a bone in the spine slipping out of position) – this can cause lower back pain and stiffness, as well as numbness and a tingling sensation if associated with nerve compression.
These conditions are treated differently to non-specific back pain.
Very rarely, back pain can be a sign of a serious problem such as:
- A broken bone in the spine. Common causes are trauma, tumours and osteoporosis,
- An infection
- Cauda equina syndrome (where the nerves in the lower back become severely compressed)
- Cancer – malignant or benign. Primary or secondary.
If you are concerned about back pain seek help from a professional