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Back pain

Access excellent private treatment for back pain in London

Back pain can disrupt daily life, with mobility problems, constant debilitating pain and/or nerve issues all having a significant impact.

Man-suffering-from-lower-back-pain-sat-at-the-tableWhile people of all ages can be affected by back pain, three common types of problem are:

  • Adult back pain
  • 'Tech neck’
  • Adolescent back pain*

*We see and treat people aged 18+ at The London Independent, but younger patients can be seen at a number of our other Circle Health Hospitals in London. Please get in touch with us if you would like us to arrange an appointment for a younger person.

In order to understand back pain, it helps to know how your spine is built.

Your back is made up of a number of different structures that all work together. Your spine plays vital role in protecting your spinal cord and supporting your head, shoulders and upper body.

The bones of the spine are called vertebrae, which are stacked on top of one another like building blocks. The vertebrae are separated by discs, and surrounded by supportive muscles, tendons and ligaments. Small joints called facet joints which are cushioned by cartilage can also be found between the back of the vertebrae. These facet joints help the spine move.

The spinal cord travels through the centre of your spine from your brainstem to your lower back, carrying nerve signals from your brain to your body and vice versa.

There are five main areas of the spine:

  • Cervical (neck)
  • Thoracic (upper back)
  • Lumbar (lower back)
  • Sacral (the back of the pelvis)
  • Coccygeal (the ‘tailbone’)

Back pain may be caused by any one of these different components, which is why it is important to see a specialist to diagnose the cause of your pain.

There are many reasons you might experience back pain. Back pain may have an obvious cause, such as:

  • Trauma (e.g. a sports injury or road traffic accident)
  • Increasing activity levels within a short timeframe, without giving the body time to adapt to the new demands placed upon it
  • Lifting a heavy weight (this may be in the gym, but is also a common problem when people start spending more time in their garden and de-weeding, digging or lifting heavy pots or bags of compost)

As we age, the lumbar discs will often degenerate. If this leads to nerves becoming trapped, it may cause pain in the back.

Problems in the facet joints (small joints connecting the bones in the spine) may cause pain, as can problems with the sacroiliac iliac (SI) joints (these link the pelvis to the lower spine).

In some cases, the cause of back pain may not be known. It isn’t always possible to identify the cause of back pain. If you’ve had your back pain investigated and there is still no identifiable physical cause, it is called non-specific back pain. This is very common.

One of the main problems of back pain is that it is constant, with no ‘on’ or ‘off’ switch. Long-term back pain, even if still relatively mild, can have an impact on both physical and mental health.

Back pain is a broad term for a range of symptoms. Most commonly, back pain will be experienced as either:

  • Neck pain
  • Middle or lower back pain
  • Sciatica (pain radiating down the leg)
  • Some types of back pain may result in:
  • Numbness or weakness in one or both legs
  • Pain in the hip, buttock or thigh (this is known as ‘referred pain’)
  • A spinal deformity

Pain itself can also mean different things to different people, and the way they describe their pain will often help a consultant to narrow down the list of potential causes. People may describe their back pain as:

  • Sharp and severe, or dull/aching
  • Constant or intermittent
  • In one area only, or spread over a wider, less specific area

Back pain may occur without warning or develop slowly over time. Sometimes, certain activities, movements or exercises will trigger the pain and cause a flare-up.

If you have any type of back pain, it is important not to dismiss it, especially if it lasts for longer than six weeks. If you are concerned about your back pain, it is sensible to see a doctor for assessment.

Before any type of treatment can be planned, a diagnosis must be confirmed. For this reason, when you first meet your consultant at The London Independent Hospital, they will talk with you in detail about your back pain.

They will want to know:

  • When you first became aware of the pain
  • Where the pain is
  • What type of pain you have
  • How the pain is affecting you on a daily basis
  • Any other symptoms or health concerns you have

They will normally also carry out an examination of your back, from head to pelvis, and may also examine your hip and leg if you have symptoms in them, or if they suspect your pain may be referred.

To aid diagnosis, imaging will usually be needed. An MRI scan is particularly helpful when investigating many back problems. The Imaging Centre at The London Independent Hospital is one of the most advanced and comprehensive in the South-East, with X-ray, a 128-slice CT scanner, cardiac MRI and specialist imaging-guided injection treatments all available.

If any diagnostic investigations are needed, your consultant will arrange them for you as quickly as possible.

Once any results are back, you will meet with your consultant again to discuss them and explore suitable treatment options with you.

Many people with back pain, whether caused by an injury, disc prolapse, disc disease or a degenerative condition, will assume that they will need spinal surgery. This is a myth.

Although you will be seeing a spinal surgeon at your private consultation, it is important to know that spinal surgery is only ever needed in a very small minority of cases.

Most patients with back pain who are seen in The London Independent will find that non-surgical treatments are effective at relieving their symptoms.

Non-surgical back pain treatment will be things like:

  • Weight loss
  • Exercising
  • Pain relief medication
  • Better wellbeing
  • Physiotherapy
  • Increasing the level of vitamin D in their body

Those who don't improve over a three to six month period will be moved to what is called ‘second generation’ treatment. This is where their consultant will arrange for them to see a consultant in pain management to try to help better control and manage their symptoms, and to improve their quality of life. 

Surgery for back pain

For the very small number of people whose symptoms are not successfully managed through this approach, surgery may be an option and this will be discussed fully with you beforehand.

There will be a certain number of people who will need an operation much more quickly. This will usually be people who have significant spinal cord problems where nerves are being pinched and causing motor and/or sensory dysfunction.

At The London Independent Hospital, we can carry out nearly all spinal procedures available, from pain relief and facet joint injections through to more complex spinal surgery.

For a very small minority of patients who have a cardiac issue, treatment may need to be carried out elsewhere, but this will still be through your Circle Health Group consultant.

We asked one of the consultants at The London Independent what they considered to be the most important aspect of getting help for back pain was.

Here is what they told us to look out for when choosing your private hospital in London:

“The very best approach to managing and treating back pain involves input from a multidisciplinary team. With input from specialists in a number of fields, including spinal surgery, physiotherapy, pain management and radiology, treatment options are broader and the best approach to treatment can be collectively determined.”

Mr Ramesh Nadarajah, Consultant Spinal Surgeon in London

At The London Independent Hospital, this MDT approach helps ensure you will always see the most appropriate person for your specific needs at every stage of your treatment. 

We understand exactly how limiting and frustrating unmanaged back pain can be. We also know how much of a difference the right treatment can make to somebody’s enjoyment of life.

Whether you live in London or will be travelling to us from further afield, The London Independent Hospital is easy to get to and is the ideal place to come for treatment and management of your back pain.

The benefits of choosing The London Independent Hospital

The benefits of choosing The London Independent Hospital for back pain treatment include:

Rapid access

When you visit The London Independent Hospital, you have fast access to a team of experienced spinal surgeons. You will usually be able to get a private consultation with the consultant of your choice within 72 hours. (If you do not have a specific consultant you wish to see, a next-day consultation may be possible.)

Continuity of care

During your time with us, you will always see the same consultant, and they will oversee every aspect of your care. With the collaborative approach provided by our multidisciplinary team, treatment will always be tailored to your specific requirements and what will be best for you.)

A save environment

Most private hospitals do not have an on-site critical care unit. Our high dependency unit means that we can cater for patients with complex medical comorbidities. (Even for patients who have a very low anaesthetic risk, the availability of HDU/ITU provides a reassuring additional layer of safety for any spinal surgery.) 

If you are struggling with back pain, get in touch with us today to book your consultation.

Specialists offering Back pain

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Mr Ahmed Sadek

Consultant Neurosurgeon and Spinal Surgeon

MBBS(Lon) BSc.(Hons) D.Phil.(Oxon) FRCS(Surg. Neurol.)

The London Independent Hospital

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Mr Alireza Shoakazemi

Consultant Neurosurgeon

MD, FRCS (Neurosurg)

The London Independent Hospital

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Mr Fady Sedra

Consultant Spinal Surgeon

MB BCh, MSc(Orth), MRCS(Glas), EBOT, FRCS(Tr&Orth), MD

The London Independent Hospital 2 more Syon Clinic The Clementine Churchill Hospital

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Mr Syed Aftab

Consultant Spinal Orthopaedic


The London Independent Hospital

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Dr Syed Hussain

Consultant Rheumatologist and General Physician

MBBS (London), MD, FRCP

The Alexandra Hospital 4 more Chelsfield Park Hospital The London Independent Hospital The Princess Margaret Hospital The Sloane Hospital

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Mr Jonathan Bull

Consultant Neurosurgeon and Spinal Surgeon

MA MB BChir MD(Res) FRCSGlasg FRCSEng (Neuro.Surg)

The London Independent Hospital

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