BACK pain is very common and usually improves within a few weeks, but in rare cases it can be a sign of a more serious health problem. While back pain is often linked to problems with posture, it can be an indication of a broken bone in the spine. How can you tell if this is the cases?
Back pain is common and normally improves within a few weeks or months, but there are a variety of different things it can be caused by – some more serious than others. Your doctor will be able to to determine what the cause is when evaluating your back.
In most cases the pain is not caused by anything serious and will usually get better over time.
“Non-specific” back pain, where there is no obvious cause, tends to be down to posture, and tends to get better or worse depending on your position.
Conditions such as a slipped disc can also cause back pain. But in very rare cases, beck pain can be a sign of a serious problem – one of these being a broken bone in the spine.
According to Spine Health, the main clinical symptoms of a fracture in the spine can include sudden onset of back pain.
Back pain is common and normally improves within a few weeks or months, but there are a variety of different things it can be caused by – some more serious than others
Pain worsening with standing or walking, pain reducing after lying on your back, limited spinal mobility, height loss and deformity and disability can also be symptoms of a broken spine.
If you see your GP with back pain, they will look for signs of a broke bone in the spine.
Other more serious problems linked to back pain include an infection, cauda equine syndrome (where the nerves in the lower back become severely compressed), and cancer.
Fibromyalgia and osteoporosis can also cause lower back pain, but Boots WedMD also notes a more serious cause – cauda equine syndrome. It describes the condition as a “medical emergency”.
It explains: “Disc material expands into the spinal canal, which compresses the nerves. A person experiences pain, possible loss of sensation and bowel or blaster dysfunction. This can include inability to control urination, causing incontinence, or the inability to begin urination.”
Other possible causes of cauda equine syndrome indulge a spinal lesion or tumour, a spinal infection, inflammation, haemorrhage or fracture, or a birth defect such as an abnormal connection between blood vessels.
Symptoms of the condition may vary and come on slowly. You may also experience pain, numbness or weakness in one o both legs that causes you to stumble or have trouble getting up from a chair.
Recent problems with bladder or bowel function, such as trouble eliminating urine or water or trouble holding it in, could also be signs.
If you develop any of the symptoms of cauda equine syndrome you should seek medical advice immediately or visit the accident and emergency department of your nearest hospital.
In the majority of cases, back pain is not caused by anything serious and will usually get better over time.
A GP can examine your back and discuss possible treatments, but there are things you can do at home to relieve it.
The NHS has four tips that may help reduce your backache and speed up your recovery. It lists the following:
Stay as active as possible and try to continue your daily activities – this is one of the most important things you can do, as resting for long periods is likely to make the pain worse.
Try exercises and stretches for back pain; other activities such as walking, swimming, yoga and pilates may also be helpful.
Take anti-inflammatory painkillers, such as ibuprofen – remember to check the medicine is safe for you to take first and ask a pharmacist if you’re not sure.
Use hot or cold compression packs for short-term relief – you can buy these from your local pharmacy, or a hot water bottle and bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a cloth will work just as well.
The health body adds: “Although it can be difficult, it helps if you stay optimistic and recognise that your pain should get better, as people who manage to stay positive despite their pain tend to recover quicker.