Answers to your back pain questions

back pain

What is the most common cause of back pain?

Mechanical pain is the most common type of back pain. This general term refers to any type of back pain caused by placing abnormal stress and strain on joints, bones or soft tissues in and around the spine. Typically, mechanical pain results from bad habits, such as poor posture, poorly-designed seating, and incorrect bending and lifting motions. It can originate from muscle, ligaments, joints (facet joints, sacroiliac joints), or bones in and around the spine. This type of pain tends to be localised to the lower back, buttocks, and sometimes the top of the legs.

What can I do to relieve my back pain?

Back pain can be alleviated by: 

  1. The use of heat packs placed over the area of pain for 20 minutes at a time or taking a warm shower or bath
  2. The use of analgesics (pain killers) ie paracetamol or ibuprofen. Always check with your GP as to the suitability of pain relief. 
  3. Adopting comfortable positions ie sitting in a supportive chair, lying on your back or side with pillows for comfort.
  4. Gentle back stretches to help relieve tight muscles and stiff joints   
  5. Be mindful of how you bend ie keep your back straight, bend knees, no twisting.

What can cause low back pain in a woman?

In addition to the normal causes ie poor postures, poor lifting technique, strain from exercise etc a woman may find that she feels lower back pain during her menstrual cycle. This is known as somatic referred pain usually arising from the ovaries. Research has also associated lower oestrogen levels that follow menopause to more severe lumbar disc degeneration and increased lower back pain in women when compared to men of a similar age.

How do I know if my back pain is serious?

Serious symptom’s to be aware of are:

  • Pins and needles in your saddle region (between your legs)
  • Trouble using your bladder (you want to go but are unable to)
  • Incontinence of your bowel
  • Unrelenting night pain
  • Night sweats

If you do experience any of the above please seek immediate medical help by going to A and E.

How do I know if my back pain is muscle or disc?

Pain originating from a strained muscle is usually dull and achy in nature and the muscle feels sore. Pain is worse with movement. A low back muscle strain typically worsens with specific movements that activate the affected muscles. For example, there may be a flare-up of pain when getting up from a seated position, when bending forward, or when first getting out of bed in the morning. Pain is usually concentrated over the lower back. It may also be felt in buttock or hips as these muscles help support the lower back. Pain relief is found when resting and usually the pain onset can be linked to a specific event or activity. 

Discogenic pain is a form of low back pain, caused by chemically or mechanically damaged inter-vertebral discs. The pain onset can be from a traumatic event of from degeneration caused by ageing. Pain is located in the lower back and can be referred to buttock and /or leg. Pain can be experienced uni- or bi-laterally and usually sitting in intolerable.   

How do I know if my back pain is muscular?

Pain from a strained muscle is usually dull and achy in nature and located in your lower back and buttock region.   

Pain that feels hot, tingling, or electric is more likely caused by an irritated nerve root, not a pulled muscle.

workout equipment

What is the best exercise for lower back pain?

Gentle non-provoking movements are appropriate when recovering from back pain. For example back movements and stretches prescribed by your physiotherapist, low level yoga/Pilates movements, gentle walking and exercising in water are all helpful activities in aiding your return to normal movement after a back pain episode.  

How long does back pain last?

Mechanical back pain can last anywhere between a few days to 6 weeks. If your pain is persisting please seek medical help for diagnosis and appropriate treatment.  

Is walking good for lower back pain?

Yes, gentle walking on flat ground is a good type of exercise to begin with when you are experiencing back pain. Listen to your body and stop if pain is aggravated.