Back pain: Causes

Woman with back pain

Understand back pain

The origin of back pain can be difficult to unearth, but symptomatic relief is available even if the cause is not known.1,2

The reason for the pain developing may not be known

Graphic depicting potential causes of back pain

Back pain can arise due to a number of different reasons

Conditions commonly linked to back pain include:1

  • Muscle or ligament strain
  • Arthritis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Skeletal irregularities
  • Bulging or ruptured disks

However, back pain often develops without a specific cause. In this case, the back pain is referred to as ‘non-specific’ back pain.2,3

The location of the pain can sometimes point to an origin

  • Neck pain

    Woman holding neck

    This type of pain can develop when the neck has been under strain, for example from working at a computer for a long duration, or from poor posture.2

    It may also occur following a whiplash injury when the head is thrown forwards and backwards.2

  • Upper back pain

    Man holding upper back

    Pain in this area may be due to muscle or ligament problems, poor posture, an injury or a trapped nerve.2

  • Lower back pain

    Man holding lower back

    The cause of pain in this region is often hard to identify. Possible initiating issues include strains from lifting incorrectly or injury following an awkward body movement, poor posture or long periods of immobility.2

Understanding back pain

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Signs and symptoms

Explore an overview of how to recognise back and neck pain and know when to refer patients.

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Management

Learn how back and neck pain can be managed.

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Overview of sprains and strains

Find out about how prevalent sprains and strains are, and meet two patients with these problems.

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Educational resources

Educational resources

Download resources for your patients

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Patient care resources

Pain-relief resources to support your patient discussions.

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