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Causes of back pain

Common causes include:

  • Muscle strain - for example, from lifting something heavy
  • Posture - sitting or standing in a way that puts pressure on the muscles in your back
  • ‘Wear and tear’ - as we get older, the soft pads (discs) between the bones of the spine (vertebrae) get thinner and offer less cushioning
  • Damage to a disc - a slipped (prolapsed) disc

Red flag!Red flag! Most back pain will get better on its own or your doctor will recommend or prescribe suitable pain killers, but if you have numbness in your bottom, cannot walk because of sudden weakness in your legs or you become incontinent, seek medical help straight away: these symptoms could mean there is a more serious problem needing urgent treatment.

Other Red flag!red flags’ for severe back pain, which might indicate a possibly more serious problem, are:

  • If you have recent or ongoing back pain and you are under the age of 20
  • New pain and you are over the age of 55
  • Severe trauma e.g. fall from height
  • Progressive, unrelenting pain that doesn’t respond to painkillers
  • Significant past history e.g. of cancer, osteoporosis, HIV
  • If you feel generally unwell e.g. fever, significant weight loss

BackCommon back pain conditions