Suffering with lower back pain? Find out about what might the cause of your problem and how you can potentially diagnose it.

Over 90% of the population suffer from a bad back at some point in their life. Most of these are simple strains and tightness caused by poor posture, unaccustomed lifting or bending and general weakness in the trunk.  

In runners, the control of the spine is very important because the repeated impacts each step; around 500 per mile. With throwers, there are the rapid twists through the spine, in jumpers there are the impacts of take-off and landing. Many athletes lift weights which all loads the spine. It is not surprising that low back pain is the most common thing seen in the clinic and even if it is not directly painful spinal dysfunction can cause many other issues down the ‘chain’ of the leg.

The purpose of these articles is:

  1. To describe the types of pain and how to assess them and understand them.  
  2. Set some simple exercises to self-treat an acute episode.  
  3. Set some exercises for control and stability of the spine.  

Which lower back pain have I got?

Pain can be central or off to one side of the back. It can be stiff and achy as well as acutely painful and disabling dependent upon the issue.  

Pain in the spine is often accompanied by discomfort to the side of the back as well as pain and tightness in the bum muscles and into the hamstring. This is ‘referred’ pain. Its origin is in the back where the nerve is being irritated but the symptom is felt in the leg.

There are four main causes of back pain.

  1. Facet joints
  2. Discs  
  3. Muscles  
  4. Nerves

Check the following articles to differentiate between each of the types of pain.

However, A RED FLAG here is:

If you have spine or back pain and experience any change in your bowel or bladder control you should contact your GP or Accident and Emergency immediately for further investigations and/or advice.

Simple diagnosis tests – generalisations only to begin.

1. Facet joints

  • More painful to lean back or to the side and back on the painful side
  • More painful to stand than sit
  • Better with rest

2. Discs

  • More painful to bend forward
  • More painful to sit but especially sit to stand
  • More painful in the morning  

3. Muscles

  • Tight in the back to move
  • General ache but nothing referred to the leg.
  • Occasional sharp pain on a specific movement
  • Usually know the incident that caused it. i.e. lifting/bending

4. Nerves

  • Referred pain into the leg
  • Better keep moving
  • Worse to rest
  • No specific pattern

This can only be taken as a guide as different issues will give similar symptoms. Use this only to start further reading of the articles.  

There are other causes of back pain and if in doubt please consult your doctor or a physio.

The good news is that the vast majority of back issues settle down either in a few days or at most a few weeks. As disabling at it might seem at the time do not panic, treat it with respect and do the right things and you will be better quickly.