Back pain is extremely common affecting 4 out of 5 of us at some point in our lives. It is most commonly caused by a simple muscle, tendon or ligament strain and not usually a serious problem. Sometimes however, back pain can be more persistent, or you have other symptoms besides pain and stiffness. In this instance it is best to seek medical advice to determine the cause of your pain and therefore the appropriate treatment and management.
What Causes Back Pain?
Often non-specific back pain doesn’t have one simple cause but may be due to a range of factors including:
- Poor Posture
- Lack of exercise resulting in stiffening of the spine
- Muscle strains or sprains
As well as the factors listed above, there are also specific conditions which are associated with pain felt in the back. It’s important to remember that severe pain doesn’t necessarily mean there is a serious problem. Some common conditions are listed below:
You may have been told that your back pain is due to wear and tear of the spine. This is called spondylosis.
As we grow older, the discs in the spine become narrower. Spurs of the bone (osteophytes) may form at the edges of the vertebrae and facet joints. All of us have wear and tear as we get older but not all of us have pain. In most cases wear and tear is just part of the normal aging process and not really related to any problems with the spine.
Back pain is sometimes linked with pain in the legs, and there may be numbness or a tingling feeling. This is called sciatica.
Sciatica is due to irritation or squeezing of one of the spinal nerves, called the sciatic nerve. For most people who develop sciatica, the leg pain tends to be the most troublesome symptom and they may not have back pain at all.
The pain travels down the leg because of the irritation of the sciatic nerve in the lumbar spine, but there is actually nothing wrong with the leg itself. In most cases the reason for the nerve irritation is a bulging disc. Discs are designed to bulge so that we can move our spines about easily, but sometimes a bulge can ‘catch’ the spinal nerve and cause pain that travels all the way down the leg and foot.
Sciatica is fairly uncommon and fortunately most people recover fairly quickly, although in some cases it might take a number of months. About 60% of all people with sciatica get better within a few weeks or months.
Sometimes back pain is associated with pain in the legs which starts after a few minutes of walking and tends to get better very quickly when you sit down. This is known as spinal stenosis. This can happen from birth or develop as we get older and causes the spinal canal to become squeezed by bone or a ligament. Symptoms often affect both legs but one may be worse than the other. The pain usually eases when you sit down and rest, and some people have less discomfort if they walk a little stooped. Like sciatica, the main problem tends to be the leg rather than the back.
We are Here to Help You
All our Physiotherapists at Tracey Miles Physiotherapy are trained in the assessment and management of back pain. Please be assured that a comprehensive subjective and objective assessment will be completed during your session in order to determine the appropriate treatment and management plan for you. Contact Us
In addition we have created a Patient Information Leaflet with recommendations and exercises to guide you in how to manage your back pain at home.