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Back Pain

Condition Page: Back Pain

Back pain is a common condition that can be caused by different factors, including medical conditions and injuries. It usually improves within a few weeks or months.

What is back pain?

Back pain is a general term for pain that you experience along the spine, from the neck to the hips.

Back pain occurs in different parts of the spine area (hips, neck, upper and lower back) and the pain level may vary day-to-day. If the back pain becomes very painful, it can begin to affect movement.

Some of the features of back pain include:

  • Pain lasting a few weeks
  • Pain is severe and doesn’t improve with rest
  • Pain on one or both legs
  • Weakness, numbness or tingling
  • Weight loss
  • Bowel or bladder problems
  • A fever

What causes back pain?

It’s often not possible to dictate what is causing back pain, known as non-specific back pain.

Sometimes the pain may be caused by an injury such as a sprain or strain, but usually it occurs for no clear reason. It rarely comes from anything serious.

In some instances, back pain can be caused by a medical condition such as:

  • A herniated disc – where a disc of cartilage in the spine presses on a nearby nerve
  • Sciatica – irritation of the nerve that runs from the pelvis to the feet

These conditions cause additional symptoms, such as numbness, weakness or a tingling feeling, and they’re treated differently from non-specific back pain.

How is back pain diagnosed?

If you are experiencing back pain, you should speak to your doctor and they will try to determine what is causing you pain by asking questions and/or through one or more of the following:

  • MRI or CT scans
  • X-rays
  • Bone scans
  • Fluid tests (ie. blood, urine, joints)
  • Movement observations
  • Electromyography

How is back pain treated?

Back pain often gets better with rest and natural measures, but sometimes the following treatments are recommended:

  • Pain relief medication
  • Heat compression or icing
  • Physical therapy – this usually means you meet with a physical therapist to learn muscle-release exercises and can continue at home to prevent back pain returning. Therapy with osteopaths and chiropractors may also aid in management.
  • Steroid injections –when other treatments don’t work, these may be injected as diagnostic and therapeutic options for reducing inflammation.
  • Botox – paralyses sprained muscles in spasm to reduce pain
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) – helps to manage chronic back pain by learning relaxation techniques and maintaining a positive outlook

Surgery for back pain is very rare. If you have a herniated disc, your doctor may recommend the best surgery for you.

If you’re unsure what treatment you should go for, or the above treatments don’t work for you, our team of expert specialists are here to help.

Find your specialist in back pain at King Edward VII's Hospital

If you are experiencing back pain and you’re seeking an expert opinion, you can find the UK’s leading back pain specialists here at King Edward VII’s Hospital. Our consultants are hand-picked for you, making it easy to access the best possible care.

Mr Pavlos Panteliadis  ›
Special interests include:
Spinal surgery (+ 12) more
Miss Vivian A. Elwell  ›
Special interests include:
Spinal surgery (+ 23) more

Need some help?
Call 020 7467 4344

Our team is available to take your call Mon - Fri - 8am – 6pm

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