Is your back pain serious?

There are many different reasons people get back pain and many consequences for those experiencing it. In this blog I am going to look at if it is serious or not. 

First of all, what do we mean by serious?  Very rarely back pain can be caused by a sinister pathology. Things such as cancer, infection, and fracture can all affect the bones in the back and if this is the cause of someone’s back pain it needs immediate medical attention.  As I said earlier the vast majority of the time this is not likely to be the case… but sometimes it can be, so what are the signs and symptoms to watch out for to see if further investigation is needed. 

What could indicate a more serious cause of your back pain?

There is also a worksheet to fill out and help with this too which can be downloaded here

If it is not caused by a sinister pathology, which is more than 99% of the time, does that mean it is not serious? 

Just because back pain is not due to a sinister pathology does not mean it can’t have a serious effect. It can affect mood, social activities, work and have a big impact on quality of life. 

In fact when you look at the statistics they show just how much of a serious issue back pain is for society. Back pain has been the leading cause of disability in the UK (and the rest of the world) since 1990 and levels of disability are increasing! The reasons for this are complex and multifactorial but part of it is that some of our medical interventions have made things worse. Inappropriate use of opioid medication, over utilisation of imaging such as x-ray and MRI scans and too much surgery when not required.

Things are starting to change. We are getting a much better appreciation of the science and biology behind why we experience pain and the biology of back pain. This is leading to a greater understanding of things that help and also importantly things that don’t! 

Back pain is common and can affect anyone. The vast majority of the time it is not due to a serious pathology but that does not mean it shouldn’t be dismissed as there can be serious consequences of back pain in lost quality of life and as a cause of disability. Understanding pain is key so you can make the right choices. When it comes to back pain a multifactorial approach that also focuses on wider aspects of lifestyle and wellbeing is paramount to addressing it and stopping it having such a negative influence on your life.