Back Pain Explained – Everything you need to know about back pain! (2022)

What is back pain?

Back pain can be an annoying feeling or it can get so bad that it is unbearable.

Back pain can keep you from living your life the way you want. There are many reasons why someone might have back pain, so it’s a good idea to go and see a back specialist soon and find out what is wrong. You might have something common, like a muscle strain, or there could be something else causing your pain, like kidney stones or endometriosis.

Are there different types of back pain?

There are different ways to describe back pain. You can talk about where the pain is in your back-upper, middle, or lower pain on the left, right, or centre side. You can also say if the pain is mild, moderate, or severe.

How common is back pain?

Around 1 in 6 people (16.9%) in England have back pain. This includes people of all ages and all causes of back pain.

How long does back pain last?

Back pain can be chronic or acute. Chronic means the pain has been going on for more than 3 to 6 months while acute means the pain is sudden and brief, often happening because of an injury.

If your back pain is caused by an infection it may go away after say a course of antibiotic medication. However if it is caused by spinal degeneration then you may well need treatment throughout your life.

Symptoms of Back pain

The most common back pain symptoms include:

  • Sensation of a stabbing or shooting pain that may radiate down to your leg and foot
  • Trouble standing up straight without pain
  • Reduced range of motion and reduced ability to flex the back
  • A dull, aching sensation in the lower back

If your back pain is due to strain or misuse, then it is usually temporary but can persist for days or weeks.

Back pain is often caused by strained muscles. This can happen when you lift something heavy incorrectly or move in an awkward way.

It can also happen when you are overactive, like when you do a lot of gardening or play a sport.

Structural problems can happen in the spine. This is when the bones (called vertebrae) don’t fit together well and there is too much space between them. This can cause pain.

Another problem can be when discs (which are like cushions) between the vertebrae get injured or damaged. These discs can bulge, herniate, or rupture and nerves can get compressed.
Herniated discs can be painful. A bulging disc will press on the nerves that travel down to your leg causing sciatica or irritation of the sciatic nerve.
Symptoms of sciatica can include pain, tingling and numbness.

Serious problems that can arise from back pain include:

  • Numbness, tingling, or weakness in one or both legs
  • Back pain after trauma (injury), such as a fall or a physical blow
  • Intense, constant pain that keeps you awake at night
  • Weight loss
  • Pain associated with a throbbing sensation in the abdomen
  • Fever
  • loss of bowel or bladder control
Tell your doctor if you have any of these symptoms.don’t improve with 2 weeks of developing.

What causes lower back pain?

Lower back pain, sometimes referred to as lumbago usually results from a problem with one or more parts of the lower back, such as:
  • Ligaments and muscles
  • Discs (Discs are areas of tissue that cushion the spaces between each vertebra)
  • Intervertebral discs ( The intervertebral discs are flat, round “cushions” that act as shock absorbers between each vertebra in your spine )
  • Nerves
  • Vertebrae (interlocking bones stacked on top of one another that make up the spine)
  • A problem with your organs nearby such as the kidneys.

Structural Back problems that cause pain


There are 24 bones in the spine. The first 5 bones are in the neck, and they are called the cervical vertebrae. The next 12 bones are in the chest area, and they are called the thoracic vertebrae. After that there are 5 bones in the lower back, and they are called the lumbar vertebrae. Then there is one fused sacral bone and a coccyx at the end.


Sometimes these discs can bulge, herniate, or rupture. Nerves can get compressed when this happens. Herniated discs can be very painful. A bulging disc pressing on the nerve that travels from your back and down your leg can cause sciatica or irritation of the sciatic nerve. Sciatica can be experienced in your leg as pain,tingling or numbness


Spinal arthritis is inflammation of the facet joints in the spine or sacroiliac joints between the spine and the pelvis. It may be due to wear and tear, autoimmune disorders, infection and possible other conditions. Spinal osteoarthritis can also be a cause of back pain. It’s caused by damage or wear and tear in the cartilage of joints in your lower back.Over time, this condition can lead to narrowing of the spinal column, or spinal stenosis.


Loss of bone density and thinning of the bone is called osteoporosis and can lead to small fractures in your vertebrae. These compression fractures can cause serious pain. Less common causes of back pain, that your doctor can test for include:
  • Ankylosing spondylitis ((AS) is a long-term condition in which the spine and other areas of the body become inflamed)
  • Degenerative spondylolisthesis (One of the vertebrae moves out of place and onto a nearby vertebra)
  • Intervertebral Disk Degeneration
  • Radiculopathy (Pinching of a nerve root in the spinal column)
  • Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction.Your SI joints are next to your spine and connect your tailbone with your hips. Sometimes these joints become inflamed due to deterioration with age, trauma to the joints, pregnancy, or from repetitive use injuries.
  • Spinal Disk Degeneration
  • Spinal Stenosis (Arises when the space inside the backbone is too small)
  • Trauma/Injury
  • Cancer or a benign (noncancerous) tumour in the spine
  • Fungal or Bacterial Infection of the Spine, E coli or Tuberculosis
  • Kidney Infections or Kidney Stones
  • Cauda Equina Syndrome (loss of nerve function at the lower spinal cord)

Higher risk categories for back pain?

As you get older you are more likely to experience back pain. As well you are at higher risk if you:
  • Don’t exercise and you are overweight
  • Already have some types of cancer or arthritis
  • Use bad lifting technique
  • Suffer from anxiety or depression
  • Are a Smoker

What causes back pain?

Back pain (pain in your spine, muscles and other tissues) can be local or radiating back pain.

Causes of Local Back Pain may be:

  • Ligament sprain; strained muscle or muscle tightness

Causes of Radiating back pain include:

  • Abdominal aortic aneurysms
  • Appendicitis
  • Cancer
  • Fibromyalgia, appendicitis
  • Gallbladder Inflammation
  • Kidney Infection and Kidney Stones
  • Liver Problems
  • Pancreatitis
  • Sexually Transmitted Infections
  • Perforating Stomach Ulcers
  • Urinary Tract Infections

Procedure for evaluation and diagnosing back pain

At Pinnacle your back specialist will get all the information needed during your consultation including symptoms, health history including family history, lifestyle as well as undertaking an examination if necessary.

Diagnostic and imaging may include:

    • X-rays
    • MRI
    • CT scans
    • Bone scan
    • EMG (Electromyography measures muscle response or electrical activity in response to a nerve’s stimulation of the muscle)

How is back pain treated?

The cause of your back pain determines the treatment.

For your back pain you may feel better with:

  • Cold packs and/or heating pads
  • Massage
  • Surgery
  • Antibiotics
  • Cortisone injection
  • Physical therapy
  • Other over-the-counter and prescribed muscle relaxants, steroids and pain medications
  • Exercise — specifically stretching & strengthening exercise
  • Chiropractic Care
  • Acupuncture

Usually for most people Over-the-counter pain medication such as Ibuprofen or Naproxen is sufficient. For more severe cases a doctor can prescribe stronger treatments.

Analgesics, such as Tylenol, are another category of pain relievers although they don’t have the anti-inflammatory properties.

Topical rubs and ointments such as gels, creams, patches, sprays and lotions may be effective at reducing back pain.

When muscles spasm, muscle relaxants that act on the central nervous system can also be used for lower back pain to reduce pain.
Antidepressants are sometimes prescribed as they work better for nerve-related pain for the treatment of back pain.

Steroid injections
Cortisone steroid injections for certain causes of back pain may be recommended.

Opioids are stronger pain medications that can be prescribed for more severe pain as they act on the brain cells and body to reduce pain.


Surgery is usually reserved for those that don’t respond to nonsurgical treatments.

Surgery may be an option for people with:

  • Severe, constant pain with identifiable structural abnormalities
  • Nerve compression that causes muscles to become weak
  • Spinal cord compression that restricts daily activities
    Alternative medicine

Alternative therapies may relieve back pain and include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Massage
  • Physical therapy including Chiropractor
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy ( CBT) including relaxation techniques

Check with your doctor before undergoing any alternative or complementary treatment If you’re experiencing back pain.

When can I get back to my normal activities?

Talk to your back specialist about a timeline regarding when you can get back to daily activities. You may need to take time off work to rest, or you may be able to go as long as you follow your doctor’s recommended treatment protocol.

To ensure you get the best treatment for your specific pain or disorder, consult with a spine specialist. Everyone’s body can react differently to various treatments.

Ask a Pinnacle specialist what treatment plan would fit your body and lifestyle to ensure you get the best effective results.

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