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Back pain

Fast, effective treatment for back pain in Glasgow

Back pain affects around 10 million people in the UK. It is often nothing serious and can be managed with exercise, hot or cold packs, and over-the-counter pain relief.

But if back pain gets worse and seriously affects your quality of life or has gone on for a long time, it’s essential to see a specialist early.

Many people come to Ross Hall Hospital in Glasgow to receive prompt diagnosis and treatment to return to enjoying everyday activities sooner.

Depending on your type of back pain, you can make an appointment to see experts at Ross Hall Hospital, including a physiotherapist, orthopaedic spinal surgeon, spinal neurosurgeon, or pain management specialist. 

Most patients’ back pain treatments at Ross Hall Hospital and Circle Health Group are non-operative. They include physiotherapy for sciatica (irritation of the nerve running from the pelvis to the feet) or correcting incorrect posture. Surgery is considered only when a medical condition requires it.

The typical back pain conditions we see that require surgical intervention are problems with the spine. Examples include a slipped disc and nerve compression in the neck or lower back. Occasionally, our consultants will see patients with back pain and spinal injuries, such as fractures.

Ross Hall Hospital’s Consultant Spinal Neurosurgeon, Mr Likhith Alakandy, said: “Back pain is a symptom that could have several causes. Most people with back pain do not have a cause that needs surgery or intervention. The pain usually happens for non-specific reasons due to mechanical problems, such as muscular issues or wear and tear in the disc, which is a natural phenomenon.”

The most common surgical treatments involve the discs between the spine's vertebrae (intervertebral discs). Another is decompression surgery to relieve stenosis, where the nerve from the spine is compromised in the lower back (lumbar spine) or neck (cervical spine).

Mr Alakandy added: “As a spinal neurosurgeon, I deal with spinal conditions such as spinal cord problems or a condition arising from the junction between the brain and the spine. I operate when a disc is out of place, a nerve is compromised, or a spine-related problem like a bony spur or a condition called stenosis where the narrowing of the spine causes pressing on the nerve.

“Generally, orthopaedic surgeons gravitate to the lower part of the spine and neurosurgeons to the cranial part, but there is no line drawn.” 

Back pain can be challenging and usually starts between 30 and 55 years old. It can affect any part of the spine, from the neck to the hips. Back pain may also radiate from the pelvis to your legs and feet.

The different parts of the back that could cause problems are muscles and ligaments, intervertebral discs, vertebrae (bones in the spine) and nerves. Back pain may also be a symptom of problems with other organs, such as the kidneys.

Is there a way to relieve back pain fast?

Mr Alakandy said: “It depends on the cause. If non-specific back pain has gone on for months or years, you can’t immediately solve the problem.”

There are several types of back pain depending on the location of the pain, its cause, and how long it lasts. Back pain is very individual — it can vary greatly from person to person.

Acute back pain

If your back pain starts suddenly and lasts several days or three to six months but gradually subsides, it’s an acute pain. Mostly, it gets better on its own. You can relieve the pain and inflammation with aspirin or ibuprofen, or your GP may prescribe a drug that relaxes the muscles.

Chronic back pain

This type of back pain usually happens in the lower back and is severe. It lasts for more than three to six months. Sometimes the cause is clear to your consultant (examples include spinal stenosis or degenerative disc disease). Still, a chronic problem can also be hard to name if it is not caused by tissue injury or structural issues.

Your specialist at Ross Hall Hospital will take a step-by-step approach to finding the reason for your back pain, starting with simple treatments like analgesics and moving to other more complex ones, depending on what they think is the cause.

Neuropathic back pain

Another category is neuropathic back pain, which relates to the central nervous system. Neuropathic pain can develop when nerves are damaged and pain messages continue despite the damage being healed.

Non-specific and mechanical back pain

Most back pain comes under the description of ‘non-specific’ back pain, which means doctors can find no clear cause. Lower back pain or lumbago is a non-specific diagnosis.

Non-specific back pain is typically mechanical in nature. Mechanical back pain describes the pain you feel in the muscles, joints and soft tissue along and beside the spine.

Examples of mechanical causes are congenital skeletal conditions such as curvature of the spine (scoliosis) and injuries from sprains, strains, falls and accidents.

Typical causes of non-specific or mechanical back pain include:

  • Poor posture
  • Pulled muscle or ligament
  • Bending and lifting awkwardly
  • Coughing and sneezing
  • Stress and tension

Your pain may improve or worsen, depending on your body position. For example, lying on your side or sitting might feel better, but it often gets worse when you move. However, inactivity can worsen lower back pain, so it’s best not to give up movement completely.

If your consultant calls your pain radicular, they think a spinal nerve impingement or inflammation may cause it.

Back pain that affects the muscles and bones in the lower back is generally a musculoskeletal or mechanical pain. This type of back pain accounts for many sickness absences from work.

Typical back pain symptoms for musculoskeletal or mechanical pain include:

  • Dull, throbbing lower back pain
  • Tingling, shooting sensation from the leg to the foot
  • Stiffness and inflexibility
  • Pain when standing up straight

If you experience any more concerning back pain symptoms that may indicate a serious cause of back pain, you should contact your GP or seek medical assistance urgently.

For non-specific back pain, there’s no immediate fix.

Most cases of back pain improve without surgery. You can treat many symptoms like sprains and strains with home remedies like ice, heat, stretching and topical creams, gels and patches that may reduce the pain or inflammation and improve mobility.

Mr Alakandy recommends simple postural correction and taking active rest for the first few weeks, such as gentle stretches and movement, not activities that provoke symptoms, like running and gardening.

Once the pain settles down, you should strengthen and condition the muscles, ideally with a physiotherapist’s help. He says you should also look at what caused the muscle problem. Is your chair the right height? Are you sitting too often and slouching on a comfortable settee?

Exercising regularly to build strength and flexibility along your spine can help, as well as build up the core (abdominal) muscles. Avoid poor posture, and lift things using your legs’ strength while keeping the spine straight. 

Exercises for back pain

Exercises like swimming, yoga, walking, and Pilates help keep the muscles active.

Mr Alakandy advised: “Swimming is particularly recommended if you do it properly because it keeps the back horizontal, and you are subconsciously activating your core muscles simultaneously. For that matter, walking doesn’t put too much stress on the back. Things like running, jumping, and skipping, with a direct impact, are not particularly useful.”

Some back pain causes are more common than others.

The most common causes of back pain in patients attending Ross Hall Hospital in Glasgow are muscle strain or ligament sprain, arthritis, sciatica and a slipped (prolapsed) disc.

You can find out more about these common back pain causes in the sections below.

Specific spinal medical conditions that cause back pain

It’s rare for back pain to be a severe medical problem. But some specific medical conditions like these cause back pain and are treated in different ways than non-specific back pain.

Mr Alakandy said: “Most operations are for disc-related problems that give rise to nerve compression and other issues. We don’t operate for back pain — back pain is a symptom. 90% of people with back pain do not have a spinal problem. They have non-specific back pain.”

Ankylosing spondylitis

This degenerative problem as we age describes swelling in the joints in the spine, but pain reduces when you move. It’s often worse when you get up in the morning.

Herniated cervical disc

Also called a ruptured disc. This spinal cord issue happens when the intervertebral discs are compressed and bulge.

Osteoarthritis of the spine (spondylosis)

Osteoarthritis is common in the back and neck and usually starts in the late 40s. Women get it more than men. It is also called spondylosis, which describes the general wear and tear of the spine’s joints, discs and bones as we age.


Bone density and strength get progressively less with osteoporosis, a painful condition that can lead to vertebrae fractures.


Also known as radiculopathy, sciatica is a familiar presentation among people seeking back pain treatments at Ross Hall Hospital. It is caused by irritation of the sciatic nerve from the buttocks down the back of the leg.


Scoliosis is a condition that often starts in childhood and can cause back pain in adults. It’s where the vertebrae are twisted and the spine is visibly curved. Scoliosis is called idiopathic scoliosis in cases where the cause is unknown. Congenital scoliosis is where bones in the spine are not adequately formed in the womb.

Slipped (prolapsed) disc

One of the most common reasons people see a consultant at Circle Health Group hospitals is a slipped disc. Arthritis is built up and the spine presses on nerve roots, causing sciatica in the lower limbs and arm pain in the upper limbs (brachialgia).

Spinal stenosis

In spinal stenosis, the spinal column narrows, putting pressure on the spinal cords and nerves. It can be caused by spinal osteoarthritis.


Spondylolisthesis can result when a bone slips out of place in the spine. It causes lower back pain, stiffness, numbness and tingling.

Serious causes of back pain

It happens rarely, but back pain can also be the result of a severe underlying condition.

Bone cancer

Some types of cancer can affect the bones in your body and the bone marrow. These bone cancers can affect any bone, including the spine, pelvis, and long bones of the arms and legs. In other cases, a cancerous tumour may be pressing against a nerve or the spinal cord, which results in back pain.

A broken bone

An accident or injury, such as a fall, could cause you to break the bones, called vertebrae, in your spine.

Broken bones can also be due to weakness caused by osteoporosis. This can develop slowly over several years and causes your bones to become fragile and brittle and, therefore, more likely to fracture.


An infection of the spine is rare, but can be extremely painful. It could occur after a recent spinal surgery or if a fungal or bacterial infection spreads through the bloodstream.

Cauda equina syndrome

This disorder affects the nerves found at the lower end of the spinal cord. Loss of nerve function is caused by the nerves being squeezed or compressed by a ruptured disc. It causes dull pain in the lower back and buttocks, numbness or tingling in the legs, and can also result in bladder or bowel control problems.

There are some red flags for back pain, but these are rare. They include unintentional weight loss, night sweats or a history of cancer elsewhere. Anyone who assesses back pain will rule out any red flags before diagnosing.

Other red flags are listed, said Mr Alakandy. “Pain on lying down or pain that worsens with activity is a red flag. Neurological symptoms are a red flag, for example, if you have pins and needles or bladder-related problems.

“People ask, ‘why is back pain at night a red flag?’. In conditions like a tumour or infection, it’s worse when you lie down because of how the blood vessels engorge, while when you are up and about, the engorgement dissipates. But it’s not absolutely characteristic. Some tumours are worse when you’re mobile.”

You should see a doctor at once if your back pain follows a fall, accident or injury or causes incontinence. You should also seek medical advice if you have a fever and back pain.

Not all back pain is due to problems in your spine. Sometimes, back pain can be caused by something that isn’t connected to the spine. We’ve covered a few of these causes below.

Kidney pain

Infection to the kidneys or bladder can lead to back problems as the pain from these organs radiates to your back. One of the common symptoms of a kidney infection is pain and discomfort in your lower back.

Back pain in pregnancy 

A common cause of back pain in a woman during pregnancy is backache or back pain. This is especially true in the early stages of pregnancy when the ligaments in your body become softer and stretch to prepare you for labour, but it can also strain your joints.

Lower back pain in women can happen when you have your period, and if there are gynaecological problems, the pain may radiate to the back.

Symptoms of Covid back pain

Many people who test positive for Covid-19 suffer from aching and painful joints and muscles, with back pain common. You may also find that your joints stiffen and muscles weaken if you have been less active while you are unwell.


This digestive condition affects your large intestine or bowel. The disease causes small bulges to develop in the bowel lining as you get older, and if these become inflamed or infected, they can cause problems. While the most common symptom of this inflammation and infection is pain in the lower tummy, it can also manifest as back pain.


Constipation is prevalent, affects people of all ages and can usually be treated easily with changes to lifestyle or diet, such as eating more fibre and drinking more water. However, in cases where you are regularly constipated for long periods, the mass of faeces stuck in your body can press against the nerves in your lower back, causing back pain.

Back pain can be felt in a number of different parts of the back.

Lower back pain (lumbago)

Most lower back pain is classed as mechanical (affecting the muscles, ligaments, bones or joints) and is the most common back pain.

Back pain in the lumbar area (lower back) can happen suddenly because of a fall or other accident. Although painful and uncomfortable, it shouldn’t last longer than six weeks and will ease with regular exercise and activities.

Lower back left side

Pain in the lower left side of the back can happen typically because of soft tissue damage such as a strain or pulled muscle around the spine. Back pain in this area could also be caused by a problem with the internal organs such as the intestines or kidneys.

Mr Alakandy said: “A kidney stone can give you pain in the back at the side, and there’s a specific point where it’s tender that’s reflective of a kidney infection, for example.”

Lower back right side

You might feel pain in the lower right back if you have a soft tissue injury. But it could also be due to structural issues such as disc or facet joint problems. The facet joint connects the bones of the spine.

Middle back pain

If you’re wondering, ‘what is middle back pain a symptom of?’, it’s usually poor posture, obesity, muscle sprain or strain, a fall, slipped disc (also called a herniated or ruptured disc), osteoarthritis, ageing or fractures.

Upper back pain

Upper back pain is a sign of poor posture. The latest estimates from the Labour Force Survey are that 45% of work-related musculoskeletal disorders in the UK were in the upper limbs or neck. Upper back pain may also be to do with an injury or overused muscles.

If you have non-surgical back pain, it is most likely that your GP will refer you to a physiotherapist or you can book a physio appointment for back pain at Ross Hall Hospital.

Mr Alakandy said: “Physiotherapists are a good first port of call for back pain. They can assess and treat the problem with physiotherapy first and see whether there is a response.

If the physiotherapy does not supply a response after six or eight weeks, after they have addressed all the muscular problems, people may come to a specialist consultant for a diagnosis.”

It is best to see a consultant orthopaedic spinal surgeon or a spinal neurosurgeon who will arrive at a diagnosis by doing an MRI scan, which may or may not show a condition that needs surgery. 

At Ross Hall Hospital, our team of physiotherapists and specialist spinal surgeons and neurosurgeons offer back pain diagnoses to private patients from Glasgow, the West of Scotland and further afield.

You can book a physio appointment or an appointment with a consultant if you have already had physical therapy for back pain.

The hospital has a range of diagnostic equipment, including MRI, consulting rooms, and modern operating theatres. Your consultant can arrange an MRI scan to aid diagnosis and treat a wide range of spinal conditions that cause back pain, disc prolapse, sciatica, and neck and arm pain at Ross Hall Hospital.

An appointment with a neurosurgeon usually is available within two or three weeks. Find a guide price for the cost of neurosurgery at Ross Hall Hospital.

How to find us

Ross Hall Hospital offers private treatments and services for those who live in Glasgow and West Scotland, and is easy to reach by both car and public transport. The hospital is a 15-minute taxi drive from both Glasgow city centre and Glasgow Airport.

Ross Hall Hospital can be found at 221 Crookston Road, Glasgow, G52 3NQ.

Book an appointment online today or call us at 0141 530 4654. 

Specialists offering Back pain

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Mr James Press

Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon

MB,BS, MRCS, Diploma of Orthopaedic Engineering, FRCS (Trauma + Orthopaedics)

Ross Hall Hospital

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Mr Andrew MacDonald

Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon

MB ChB, BSc(Hons), FRCS(Tr&Orth)

Ross Hall Hospital

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Mr Jonathan Dearing

Consultant Orthopaedic Knee & Sports Injuries Surgeon

BDS, FDSRCPS,MBChB(Hons), FRCS(Trauma and Orth), Dip SEM, MFSEM

Ross Hall Hospital

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Mr Likhith Alakandy

Consultant Spinal Neurosurgeon

MBBS, MPhil, FRCS, FRCSEd, FRCS(Neurosurgery)

Ross Hall Hospital

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Mr Drummond Mansbridge

Consultant Orthopaedic and Trauma Surgeon

MBChB(Glasg), FRCS(Glasg), FRCS(Trauma and Orthopaedics)

Ross Hall Hospital

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Mr Khalid Ayoub

Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon

MSc (Trauma Surgery, FRCS (Glasgow), FRCS (Orthopaedics & Trauma)

Ross Hall Hospital

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