Back pain

I have picked back pain as a topic cover because of just how common it is. I am writing this back pain editorial in the evening after a full day seeing patients and just today I have seen three patients with pains in the back. I suspect that I will see the same amount or maybe even more tomorrow. Hopefully my advice will help a number of you to get better and prevent recurring lower back pain. I will also ensure that you are aware of signs and symptoms that need to be taken seriously, so that you are prepared if they develop.

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What are the causes of back pain?

Backache is often a pain originating from the muscles of your back. The muscles of the back are responsible for maintaining your posture and can become tight trying to perform this role in the face of your day-to-day activities. Examples like poor posture sitting at a desk or lifting with a bad technique can all lead to your muscles getting tight and it is the tightening of the muscles that leads to the pain. You will often find that this pain is worst when you have been inactive, especially when you have been asleep, waking with a stiff back. Your muscles will tighten when inactive, giving rise to the ache. As you get moving the muscles starting warming up and stretching and this normally sees the ache settle.

When might it not be just muscular?

The above description is classic for muscular back pain, which often settles with simple over-the-counter painkillers and some gentle stretching exercises and normally within six weeks. If your pain doesn’t fit this description or there are other symptoms like urinary problems, bowel problems, tingling around your genitals, weight loss or a lump in your back then it would be wise to see your Doctor.

What is sciatica pain and is it different to back pain?

Back pain symptoms are not the same as sciatica symptoms. Sciatica is a group of symptoms, classically giving you shooting pains down the back of your legs. The symptoms associated with sciatica are caused by the sciatic nerve being pinched or bent by structures found on its path from the low back, down the back of your legs and to the feet. The most common cause of sciatica is a prolapsed inter-vertebral disc, which are the shock absorbers found between each of the bones of your spine.