Back pain


Mechanical back pain

The spine is anatomically divided into 3 clear regions upper (neck/cervical), middle (thoracic) and lower (lumbar).

Upper back pain which is sometimes referred to as cervicalgia is a common complaint.  An injury in the neck region can be perceived locally or can be sensed in the shoulder/scapula region.  Interestingly a cervicogenic headache which is known to originate in the upper neck is often described as back of the head pain or as an occipital headache.

Middle or thoracic back pain relates to any discomfort or injury perceived in the spinal region between the neck and the lumbar spine.  The ribs articulate with the thoracic spine and therefore any dysfunction in this area can lead to back rib pain, resulting in discomfort on deep breathing and commonly with twisting from one side to another.

However the most commonly described type of spinal pain in the literature with an estimated lifetime incidence ranging from 60-80% (Long et al 1996) is Low or lumbar back pain.

Types of Back Pain

Sudden or acute back pain can often result from fairly innocuous movements and may not necessarily require trauma. Usually such episodes are self-limiting and tend to resolve over a 4-6 week period. However with extreme or serious back pain it would be recommended that you are seen in a back pain clinic by a healthcare professional. Although serious pathology of the lumbar spine is rare a health care professional working within a back pain centre, such as a Physiotherapy team, would be able to examine the symptoms thoroughly and therefore direct the appropriate management and treatment for the individual.

Persistent or chronic pain is characterised by symptoms that last beyond the natural healing times of musculoskeletal tissue of around 12 weeks. Such individuals may not have constant back pain but may have instead ongoing intermittent symptoms that fail to truly resolve.

Quality of Back pain

Muscular back pain may be described as achy, tender or sore – whereas with nerve irritation it is often defined as a burning back sensation with shooting or electric shock pains into the limbs. Such neural type symptoms can be associated with tingling and numbness.

Degeneration in the spine can be referred to as a type of arthritis back pain, but degeneration in itself is not a pathology as it often exists without causing discomfort and is part of the normal aging process.

What to do for Back Pain?

There are a number things you can do to help ease back pain in the acute stage. If it is difficult to get to a healthcare professional then trying heat as a soothing measure may be beneficial in the first instance.  A hot water bottle, heat pad or even a warm bath may help to relieve any muscular aching. However it is unlikely to cure the pain on its own.


Physio for back pain is highly recommended.  Many physiotherapists are back pain specialists that will guide their patients through appropriate initial and long term management.  The therapist may use a wide variety of techniques to help their patient but usually in the beginning it is important to educate the patient on the best way to move, pace their daily activity and improve their posture.  Treatments such as massage, manual therapy, acupuncture, electrotherapy and exercises can then be used to help relieve pain and restore normal movement.

There are also other forms of exercise approaches that can be used to maintain a healthy body. General cardiovascular exercise which may include low impact activities such as swimming and exercise bike are useful. Yoga and pilates can be beneficial for spinal symptoms.


Doctors and pharmacologists have a broad selection of painkillers or types of medication for back pain at their disposal.  It is suggested that individuals should consult with their GP’s if their pain is severe and require painkillers. Back pain patches may or may not provide relief and therefore would not necessarily be regarded as a solitary treatment measure.

Back pain Products

Below is a list of some of the kind products that you may find on the market:

  • Back pain belt
  • Orthotics and specialist shoes
  • Orthopaedic beds and Mattresses
  • Orthopaedic pillows
  • Lumbar pillows
  • Brace

It is suggested that before purchasing any product that may lay claim to ‘fixing your back’ seek the advice of a healthcare professional to see if it is appropriate. Usually the inexpensive methods can be the most effective.


Imaging is rarely required for back pain and should never be carried out as a formality. However occasionally imaging will be performed under the guidance of a consultant but serious pathology is thankfully very rare.  It most likely you will be referred back to your therapist following imaging to continue with treatment.

and discuss with one of our very experienced physiotherapists.

Contact Information

If you have any questions and want to know how to ‘get rid of’ or ‘lose your’ back pain – then you can contact us here at Kensington Physio & Sports Medicine clinic. To book an initial consultation with one of our expert physiotherapists, please call us on 0207 6030040 or email us at