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Back pain

Fast access to treatment for back pain in Sheffield

Although back pain is rarely serious and typically improves within a few weeks, symptoms can range from merely uncomfortable to severe.

There are many causes of back pain, including injury, medical conditions and age-related degeneration. Treatment varies depending on the cause and symptoms. You can do simple at-home treatments to treat back pain or see a doctor for more severe cases when at-home remedies are not enough.

This page will look at the symptoms, causes and treatments of back pain. We’ll also explore your private treatment options for back pain at Circle Health Group’s Thornbury Hospital in Sheffield.

Your back is a complex structure made up of multiple components that all work together to support your body. Your spine is one of the strongest parts of your body. It plays a critical role in protecting your spinal cord and supporting your head, shoulders and upper body.

The structural elements of your spine and back include:

  • Vertebrae: 24 small, moveable bones that sit on top of each other in the spine
  • Spinal cord: a long bundle of nerves that runs down the back through a canal in the vertebrae
  • Intervertebral discs: cushion-like discs that separate the vertebrae and act as shock absorbers
  • Facet joints: small joints called facet joints, set on either side of the spine, that help it move. They have a cartilage surface like your hip or knee joints
  • Ligaments: short, tough bands of tissue called ligaments that hold the vertebrae in place
  • Tendons: fibrous, connective tissues that connect muscle to bone
  • Muscles: muscles support your upper body and spine and help you move

Back pain can result from a problem with any of these structures.

Your spine is made up of five sections:

  • Cervical spine: seven vertebrae that begin at the base of the skull and end at the upper chest
  • Thoracic spine: twelve larger vertebrae that run from the upper chest to the middle of the back
  • Lumbar spine: five large vertebrae that form the curve of the lower back
  • Sacrum: a flat, triangular bone located between your hips
  • Coccyx: a bony structure at the end of the spine, commonly referred to as the tail bone

There are many different types of back pain, depending on the location and cause of the pain. Back pain is highly personal — that means it can vary greatly from person to person.

Back pain can feel like:

  • An intense, shooting pain
  • A dull ache
  • A burning or stabbing sensation
  • Stiffness that is worse in the morning
  • Pain that comes and goes
  • Pain that gets worse with specific movements
  • Painful spasms
  • Pain that radiates down the legs
  • An inability to stand up straight

Back pain can come on suddenly after a specific movement, injury or fall, or it could come on gradually with no apparent cause.

Pain is classified by its duration. Back pain that lasts less than six weeks is called ‘acute pain’, and pain that lasts longer than 12 weeks is called ‘chronic pain’. Chronic pain can also come and go in multiple episodes.

Lower back pain is often called ‘lumbago’ because it originates in the lumbar part of the spine.

Lower back pain can radiate into other parts of the body, including the buttocks, thighs and legs. Most lower back pain is acute, but about 20% of people with acute pain go on to have chronic back pain.

Although the lower back has just five vertebrae (called the L1-L5), they are the largest vertebrae. These vertebrae connect your spine to your pelvis. They support the weight of your upper body and are susceptible to wear and tear, overuse and injury.

Most lumbago is mechanical, which means there is a problem with the structures of the lower back and how they fit together and move.

There are many reasons you might experience back pain. Back pain can also be aggravated by your lifestyle, including poor posture, sitting down for too long, driving long distances and incorrect lifting.

Like the rest of our bodies, our spines age and are susceptible to degenerative changes and stiffness.

Risk factors for back pain

Anyone can get back pain, but some factors put you at higher risk.

  • Age: back pain becomes increasingly common with older age
  • Fitness levels: if you are not physically fit, you are more likely to have back pain
  • Sedentary lifestyle: individuals who do physical activity after periods of inactivity are susceptible to back injury.
  • Job-related factors: if your job requires heavy lifting, pushing, pulling or twisting, you have a higher risk of back injury. If you are seated at a desk all day, you might develop back pain due to poor posture or lack of proper support
  • Being overweight: being overweight, obese or putting on a lot of weight quickly can put stress on your back
  • Genetics: some medical causes of back pain can be hereditary
  • Smoking: smoking restricts blood flow and oxygen to your discs, causing them to degenerate faster. It also increases inflammation in the body
  • Mental health: your mood and stress levels can impact your likelihood of experiencing back pain. Depression and anxiety can influence your perceived pain levels
  • Pregnancy: pregnant women commonly experience back pain in all trimesters of their pregnancy due to rapid weight gain, posture changes, stress and changing hormones

Mechanical causes of back pain

Back pain can result from a mechanical or structural problem with any one of the structures that make up your back, including your vertebral discs, muscles, tendons, ligaments or tendons.

  • Sprain: this is an overstretched or torn ligament that supports the spine
  • Strain: this is an injury to a muscle or tendon
  • Spondylosis: as we age, the spine begins to degenerate as part of the natural ageing process and normal wear and tear
  • Osteoarthritis (OA): when the cartilage between the facet joints wears down, it causes stiffness and pain in the spine or neck
  • Spondylolisthesis: when one of the vertebrae becomes displaced in the spinal column, it is called spondylolisthesis. This can happen as a result of ageing or traumatic injury
  • Spinal stenosis: osteoarthritis and other degenerative effects of ageing can cause the spinal column to narrow, putting pressure on the spinal cord and nerves
  • Herniated (slipped) disk: when the outside of the disc is compressed or ruptured, the disc’s jelly-like centre (nucleus) can protrude against the spinal column, putting pressure on the nerves
  • Sciatica: this is when a herniated disc in the lower back bulges against the sciatic nerve leading down into the leg and foot. It is characterised by pain, numbness and pins and needles down the buttock and legs
  • Fracture: compression fractures are more common as we get older and can result from osteoporosis, a condition in which the bones become weaker and more brittle.
  • Scoliosis: this is an abnormal curvature of the spine. It most commonly occurs in children and teenagers, but it can also develop in older adults with arthritis

It’s not always possible to identify the cause of back pain.

If you’ve had a clinical investigation, but there is no identifiable physical cause for your pain, it is called non-specific back pain. Non-specific back pain is very common and may result from psychological stress.

Medical causes of back pain

Other medical conditions can cause back pain.

  • Ankylosing spondylitis: a type of inflammatory arthritis that specifically affects the spine.
  • Cauda equina syndrome: a rare but serious condition in which the cauda equina nerve bundle, which controls the lower limbs and pelvic organs, becomes damaged or compressed. Symptoms can include leg pain, numbness in the pelvic region, incontinence and weakness in the legs
  • Kidney problems: kidney stones or infections can sometimes be felt as back pain
  • Some types of cancer: tumours that press against the spine or other areas of the back may cause back pain.

There are several reasons why women experience lower back pain more frequently than men.

  • Pregnancy: pregnant women frequently experience back pain due to rapid weight gain, posture changes, stress and changing hormones
  • Menstruation: intense or frequent cramping during menstruation is called dysmenorrhea, which is frequently felt in the lower back
  • Endometriosis: this is a gynaecological disorder that causes uterine tissue to grow outside the womb. One of the symptoms is lower back pain, especially during menstruation
  • Menopause: after menopause, women’s lumbar discs degenerate faster than men’s
  • Osteoporosis: women are more susceptible to osteoporosis after menopause due to a dip in the hormone oestrogen, which is essential for bone health

Most of the time, back pain gets better after a few days or weeks. However, if your pain cannot wait, it can be helpful to see a doctor to discuss your symptoms and treatment options. You should also see a doctor if your pain:

  • Has not improved after a few weeks
  • Is severe
  • Is the result of a fall or traumatic injury
  • Gets worse over time
  • Prevents you from doing your day-to-day activities

If you experience any of the following symptoms in addition to back pain, you should seek immediate medical advice as it might be a sign of a more serious problem.

Call 111 or see your GP if your back pain is accompanied by:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Numbness in your genitals or buttocks

Acute back pain usually gets better on its own with simple at-home remedies. Depending on the severity of your pain, there are various at-home and medical treatment options you can explore.

How to treat back pain at home

Many cases of back pain can be effectively treated at home. Bed rest is not recommended for back pain because the muscles around the spine should remain active and able to support your bones and joints.

  • Take a brief rest from strenuous activities or motions that cause pain
  • Use over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen to help with pain relief and inflammation
  • Try alternating ice packs and heat compresses
  • Do gentle back exercises and stretches if advised by your doctor

Medical treatment of back pain

If your pain does not improve with treatments at home, your doctor might recommend additional medical treatments. These may include:

  • Prescription medications: your doctor might prescribe stronger non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), codeine or muscle relaxants
  • Physiotherapy: a specialised physiotherapy programme can improve flexibility and strength and ease pain
  • Acupuncture: in this ancient Chinese therapy, fine needles are inserted into specific points of the body to relieve stress and back pain.
  • Spinal injections: when painkillers or other therapies are not enough, your doctor might recommend steroid injections of cortisone into the spinal cord
  • Manual therapy: this can include spinal manipulation, soft-tissue massage or hands-on movement to the lower back, typically performed by an osteopath, chiropractor or physiotherapist

Surgical options for back pain

Back surgery is only recommended when there is a clear medical cause of the pain and non-surgical treatments, including physiotherapy and spinal injections, have not helped. Common reasons for back surgery include back injuries, spinal stenosis or herniated discs.

Surgery cannot correct every type of back pain, so it’s not always an option, even if all other treatments have been tried and failed.

All surgical procedures come with some risks, so you should discuss the benefits and risks of any surgical procedure with your surgeon before deciding to proceed with the recommended operation.

Although it’s not always possible to avoid back pain, there are some general measures and lifestyle changes you can take to support your back health.

  • Practice good posture while sitting at home or work and get up for frequent breaks
  • Make frequent stops when driving long distances and consider back support for your seat
  • Wear supportive footwear with low heels
  • Learn safe lifting techniques and limit the amount of weight you carry
  • Maintain a healthy weight to avoid extra stress on your joints and strain on your back
  • Ensure your mattress supports you properly
  • Perform regular exercises to keep your back strong

Many forms of exercise can help keep the back strong and healthy. Swimming, yoga, pilates, tai chi, walking and going to the gym are all beneficial for people with back pain. Try to find the type of exercise that you enjoy doing so that you can make it a part of your regular routine.

If you have back pain, waiting for improvement isn’t always an option. For severe back pain or pain that interferes with your daily life, you can seek treatment. Thornbury Hospital offers private treatment for individuals with back pain in Sheffield, South Yorkshire.

If you are looking for a way to ease your back pain quickly, Thornbury Hospital can help. We ensure fast access to our services, usually within 48 hours.

In your initial consultation with an orthopaedic surgeon, your consultant will work with a multidisciplinary team to diagnose your condition and come up with a personalised treatment plan for your back pain.

Private physiotherapy treatments

Getting tailored exercises and physical therapy from a specialist in back pain is one of the most effective treatments for acute and chronic back pain.

At Circle Health Group, our physiotherapy services are a proven way of dealing with back pain from sports injuries, arthritis, muscle injuries and post-surgery rehabilitation.

Our fully equipped gym offers a range of exercise equipment that your physiotherapist will use to create a personalised programme designed to increase your mobility, improve strength, build core stability and relieve your symptoms.

At Thornbury Hospital, we offer the following highly specialised private physiotherapy treatments:

  • Acupuncture physiotherapy: can be used on its own or alongside physiotherapy to treat osteoarthritis, neck pain and back pain. It is most effective when used with other treatment methods such as stretching, exercising and physical manipulation
  • Gait analysis: to assess how well you sit, stand and walk to help identify back issues that might be causing you pain now or in the future
  • Physiotherapy for sports injuries: to treat muscle, joint and nerve problems caused by a sports or exercise-related injury
  • Pilates: a low-impact exercise that focuses on strengthening the back and core muscles and improving balance

All our physiotherapists are registered with the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC) and members of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists, per recommendation by the NHS.

Steroid injections

When your pain is severe, your consultant might recommend steroid injection therapy. In this therapy, corticosteroid medication is injected into a space near your spinal cord to provide temporary relief from pain and inflammation.

This is particularly helpful in breaking the cycle of pain, allowing you to get more effective relief from your physiotherapy treatment.

Learn more about steroid injection therapy at Thornbury Hospital here.

Surgical spinal treatments

An orthopaedic surgeon will perform a thorough examination to determine if a mechanical problem is causing your pain. This includes a physical examination and diagnostic imaging tests including X-rays, CT scans or MRIs.

If you have a medical condition such as spinal stenosis, slipped discs and spondylolisthesis and other treatments have not been successful, then your orthopaedic surgeon might suggest back surgery.

Thornbury Hospital offers the following surgical treatments:

  • Spinal fusion surgery: this surgery helps treat spondylolisthesis (when a vertebra is misaligned) by fusing two or more vertebrae together with a bone graft
  • Lumbar spinal decompression surgery: your surgeon will remove the bony arches in your back called lamina to make space for the nerves in your spine
  • Lumbar laminectomy: this surgery treats spinal stenosis by removing the section of your bone that is putting pressure on your nerves
  • Lumbar microdiscectomy: in this procedure, a surgeon will remove the section of your slipped (also called herniated) disc that is putting pressure on your nerves

Learn more about spinal surgery at Thornbury Hospital here.

Back pain will affect many of us at some point in our lives. Back injuries from poor posture, improper lifting or overdoing exercise are very common and often go away on their own.

Most of the time, back pain is not a sign of a serious condition, but that doesn’t mean you have to live with the pain. If you have back pain that is severe or affecting your quality of life, there are options to help.

The sooner you seek treatment, the sooner you can get back to living your life.

A multidisciplinary team of back pain specialists

At Thornbury Hospital, our multidisciplinary team of orthopaedic surgeons, physiotherapists, radiologists and back pain specialists are all dedicated to helping you find relief from back pain.

We will work with you to develop a personalised treatment programme designed around your specific needs. In our latest patient satisfaction scores, we received top marks with:

  • 99.9% of patients saying they were likely or extremely likely to recommend us to friends or family
  • 99.9% of patients saying the quality of their care was very good or excellent

We offer a range of treatments for back pain including physiotherapy, spinal injections and spinal surgery. Your consultant will help you find the right treatment plan for you. Many of our back pain treatments are available in fixed price packages which include your initial consultation, treatment and aftercare.

How to find us

Thornbury Hospital can be found at 312 Fulwood Road, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S10 3BR. It is accessible by the M1 and can be easily reached by public transport.

Book an appointment online today or call us at 0114 386 3547.

Specialists offering Back pain

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Mr Ramez Ibrahim

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Mr Debapriya Bhattacharyya

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Mr Abhinay Kamat

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MBBS, MS ( Gen Surgery) , DNB ( Gen Surgery) FRCS ( Neurosurgery)

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Dr Sameer Gupta

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