Back Pain

Back pain is a very common feature of life affecting all age groups from teenagers to the very elderly. Some of the causes of back pain can be serious and need urgent specialist intervention, but most back pain originates from the wear and tear of the intervertebral discs and the small joints(facets).

The spine is very complex with the bones(vertebrae), ligaments, muscles and the discs (or shock absorbers) all acting in concert to enable the spine to be mobile, yet protect the vital spinal cord and the nerves which exit at different levels . The discs and joints can wear, leading to back pain, and if the nerves are crushed or trapped then the pain can be very severe and radiate down into the arms or the legs.

Acute back pain and spasm can be very frightening and disabling and may come on suddenly with very little warning and not necessarily associated with heavy lifting. A simple twist or bend can often precipitate such problems. The reason for this is that the intervertebral disc tends to wear naturally and lose its supporting capacity allowing the spine to move abnormally, to tear ligaments and seize up.

The problem is usually focused at one area of the spine, usually the low back or neck and is treated with analgesics, (pain killers), and a brief period of rest; when the acute spasm is relieved the next step is early mobilisation with physical therapy. Sometimes several areas of the spine are affected at the same time. The majority of these attacks settle rapidly. In some cases radiation of pain occurs, into the arm if it was a problem in the neck, or the leg if it is a low back problem . This nerve pain can be particularly severe. If this type of pain is not resolving over three or four weeks with physical therapy and strong painkillers then urgent expert assessment is required to determine the next stage of treatment .

Many more serious conditions do present with pain in the back and our experts are skilled in identifying the serious problems so that they can be referred for immediate specialist opinion.