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Back Pain - Symptoms, Causes & Treatments for Back Pain

Most of us will suffer with the dreaded ‘back pain’ at some stage in our lives but DON’T FRET,  it is one of the most common problems which we treat in our clinics on a daily basis. Our chartered physiotherapist Bláithín Brady sees people who suffer with back pain nearly everyday and today she provides her insights into this problem.

The Back Consists Of…

The areas of the back include  the Thoracic (upper and mid back), the Lumbar (lower back) and our Sacral (base of our spine). Yourback is a complex structure composed of bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons and discs (the cartilage-like pads) that act as cushions between the vertebrae (segments) of your spine.

Who suffers with Back Pain?

Anyone can get back pain but some of the things which increase your risk include:

  • Ageing

  • Poor physical fitness

  • Being overweight

  • Heredity

  • Your Job

  • Smoking

What are the symptoms of Back Pain?

Symptoms of back pain may include:

Persistent aching or stiffness anywhere along your spineShooting or stabbing pain in the neck, upper back or lower backPain that radiates down your leg or armLimited flexibility or range of movement in the backInability to stand up straightInability to stay in the one position (sitting or standing) for prolonged amounts of time

How is it Caused?

The causes of back pain are numerous-some of which could be avoidable and others which may be inevitable. The main causes of back pain include:

Muscle or Ligament Strain

This can be due to repeated heavy lifting, not lifting something correctly, a sudden awkward movement, sleeping in an awkward position or something as simple as not warming up or cooling down appropriately before and after exercise.


Osteoarthritis (‘wear and tear’), Rheumatoid Arthritis or Ankylosing Spondylitis can all contribute to back pain.

Bulging or Ruptured Disc

The soft material inside a disc may bulge out of place or rupture sometimes causing localised back pain. Sometimes ruptured discs may not necessarily be the root of your pain as many of us may suffer with a ‘Disc Bulge’ but have no back pain at all.


If a bulging disc presses on the main nerve that travels down your leg it can cause sciatica which is a sharp, shooting pain through the buttock and back of the leg. 

Poor Posture

Poor posture is not just as simple as standing and sitting incorrectly. Things such as not having your desk set up correctly at work or not having your car seat at the appropriate height for you can all contribute to poor posture and thus back pain. 

Read our blog on Posture here.

Acquired Diseases and Skeletal Irregularities

Back pain can occur if your spine curves in an abnormal way e.g. Scoliosis. Other conditions such as Spondylolisthesis, Stenosis, Kidney Stones, Infections and Fibromyalgia can contribute to back pain also.


Some of the hormonal changes women encounter during pregnancy can contribute to back pain as well as the added weight putting more pressure on the back also.

What to do if you have Back Pain?

This is always the difficult part, do you put up with the pain and hope that it will go away in a few days or do you see a health professional and get to the bottom of the problem as soon as possible?

Well first and foremost you need to distinguish how your pain started and where the pain is originating from and more times than not you will require the help of a Charted Physiotherapistor a Doctor to do so.

If you are suffering from a very acute episode of back pain then you will, more than likely, be required to take some anti-inflammatories to reduce the inflammation (which you will need to discuss with your GP or local pharmacist). Ice and/or heat can also be helpful in this acute stage as advised by your Charted Physiotherapist.

Although you may feel that bed rest is the best option for you research has emphasized the importance avoiding prolonged bed rest as it can lead to muscle wastage which can further compound your low back pain. Once you are past the ‘acute 48hr phase’ ensure you go for little walks to let your muscles know they are still needed, if you need to rest or pain gets too much by all means take one, just don’t go to bed  for two weeks thinking that will solve your ailment.

The next step is to see your Charted Physiotherapist if you have not already done so. We can apply various treatment techniques such as heat, massage, dry needling,  mobilisation and manipulation 

As your pain decreases and your back mobility starts to return to normal your Charted Physiotherapist can teach you specific exercises that may help improve your flexibility and strengthen your core back and abdominal muscles. We can also discuss ways to improve your posture and above all we can teach you that regular use of these exercises can help prevent the pain from returning. 

So if you are experiencing back pain do not suffer any further. Book an appointment with us today and we can immediately get working on reducing pain. 

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