The back is a complex structure, involving muscle, bone, nerves, and joints, which means that there are many different causes of back pain, from traumatic injury to stress.
Pain in the low back is the most common type of back pain, also called lumbago, but you may experience pain anywhere along the spine, down at your hips or up around the neck.
Back pain can be a postural issue, triggered by sitting or standing, bending awkwardly, or lifting something heavy without correct alignment. It is usually not related to a serious condition and maybe a short-term complaint, lasting weeks or months. In some cases, the condition is chronic, with long-term or recurring bouts of pain.
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Often, there is no obvious cause for pain in the back; in this case, doctors refer to it as ‘non-specific back pain’. The types of injury or disease that are known to cause pain include:
- Slipped disc – if a disc in the spine is damaged, it can press on the nerves and cause pain.
- Sciatica – this is an irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve, causing pain, numbness and tingling sensations that travel down the leg.
- Whiplash – sudden impact trauma, causing neck injury.
- Ankylosing spondylitis – a chronic (long-term) condition causing pain and stiffness at the sacroiliac joint (where the spine meets the pelvis).
What to do next
We know how debilitating and frustrating back pain can be. We will take your concerns seriously, listen and act to help relieve the pain, understand the cause and help prevent future episodes. Our experienced and caring doctors work with specialists, physiotherapists and London’s leading imaging centres to help create an integrated care approach for your back.
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Whether your posture is causing a spinal misalignment, or spinal misalignment is causing poor posture, this can absolutely lead to back pain. Imbalance in posture can make the stresses on each side of the body unequal, and lead to muscle tightness, strain, or even pinched nerves.
The term sciatica takes its name form the sciatic nerve, a major nerve that controls all of the nerve signals between the leg and the spine. A pinching anywhere along this nerve can lead to referred pain in the low back. Shooting pains in your legs or buttocks are an indicator of this condition.
The doctor will perform a physical examination of your spine, and take a thorough medical history of any past injuries, conditions, or relevant family history. In some cases, diagnostic imaging such as an x-ray, CT scan or MRI may be advised.