What are the common causes of back pain?

The common causes of back pain

Back pain is a common issue for many people in the UK with Arthritis Research UK and Imperial College London finding that ‘approximately 1 in 6 adults in England have some form of back pain’. The causes for back pain can be just as numerous as the cases with most people experiencing some form of back pain in their lifetime.

At Relief Chiropractic, we see the effects of this ongoing struggle on a daily basis. Our expert team work to get to the root causes of patient concerns before devising a bespoke plan of care to restore normal function and allow patients to enjoy life, free of pain. 

To help you understand the causes of back pain; we’re going to look at some of the most common causes of back pain and what treatment you can seek.

Understanding the structure of your back

Your back is a complicated system of parts that all work together. Bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, nerves, and tendons all work together to support your body. There are 24 vertebrae supported by the sacrum and coccyx at the base of the spine. The vertebrae also have discs between them to act as shock absorbers and allow you to bend. At the centre of all of this is the spinal cord. The spinal cord threads through the vertebrae and carries nerve signals from the brain throughout the body. 

This complicated combination of tissues and systems makes determining the cause of back pain complicated with most people requiring several sessions with a registered medical professional to ease pain and deal with the problem area. In advanced cases, back pain can even require surgery.

What are the most common symptoms of back pain?

Back pain can vary significantly from person to person with most cases broken down into two categories. Non-specific back pain and specific back pain.

Non-specific back pain

Patients who experience back pain and see a GP you may be told they have ‘non-specific back pain’. This general characterisation can lead to people suffering from back pain indefinitely without a way of determining the cause.

We believe that all pain has a root cause. Even non-specific back pain can be a sign of a deeper issue. Our team of chiropractors and therapists are committed to getting to the bottom of all back pain issues to help our clients life live to the fullest. If you find you’ve lost mobility, experience back, hip, neck, or joint pain, or just want to find out what is causing you pain then contact us and we’ll help you identify your concerns. Like with all forms of medicine, prevention is better than cure and we’re here to help before back pain becomes worse.

Specific back pain

Specific back pain is pain that has an easily-identifiable source. Slipped discs, fractures, and inflammation as a result of immune system conditions are some of the most common specific causes of back pain. 

Your GP will first suggest painkillers to treat the pain or suggest conservative treatments to tackle the underlying issue. Chiropractic, physio, and osteopathy are all highly regarded manipulation therapies that can help you get to the root cause. You can also contact us directly for faster intervention and support.

If, however, your case is more advanced, or you don’t see any improvement from manipulation therapies then you may be directed to a neurologist, rheumatologist, or surgeon.

Therapist working with patient

The most common causes of back pain

Most cases of back pain are attributed to one of the following;

Pulled muscles or tendons

Lifting heavy objects, twisting, stretching, and even sleeping awkwardly can cause back pain. This non-specific pain is one that usually heals itself over time and can sometimes cause spasms and tightness. However, if the pain persists you should seek medical advice.

Herniated, Ruptured or Injured Discs

The discs in your spine are natural shock absorbers designed to absorb much of the shock your body experiences every day. However, even your discs can suffer from damage resulting in ruptured, slipped, or herniated disks. These cushions of tissue are more prone to issues as you age.

Arthritis and Other Inflammation

Another common cause of back pain is inflammation which can cause pain and discomfort. Inflammation is your body’s natural immune response and can be caused by any number of conditions and concerns. 

Arthritis is one such form of chronic inflammation. This condition affects millions of people, especially as they get older, and can lead to chronic pain, stiffness, and swelling.


Osteoporosis is a different type of cause. This disease reduces bone mass, weakening bones and increasing the chances of fractures. The first step to dealing with osteoporosis is going to your GP. Your GP will suggest medication or refer you to a specialist to get checked out. You can also contact us directly for a consultation if you have concerns. We often pick up evidence of osteoporosis on x-rays and can help advise you on the next step.


Spinal stress is another one of the common causes of back pain. Poor posture and excess weight can put extra pressure on your spine and increase the chances of pulling muscles or damaging the spine.

Symptoms of back pain

According to BUPA; “Nine out of 10 people find their back pain improves within four to six weeks”. However, even if the pain goes, the root cause may not. We have long held the belief that pain is an indicator of a potential issue. If you’re concerned then please feel free to book a consultation and our team will help locate the issue long before it becomes a bigger problem. 

Pain is not the only indicator of a musculoskeletal issue. You should also seek medical attention if:

  • You have a numb feeling or tingling around your bottom or genitalia
  • You lose control of your bowels
  • Feel weak or unsteady on your feet
  • Feel like your foot is dragging or dropping

If you are interested in finding out more about treating back pain or want to know more about how we can help you then please book an appointment or contact us today

At Relief Chiropractic Health Clinic, based in Cambridge, we specialise in treating patients with gentle and effective techniques to restore normal function, reduce back pain and improve everyday life.