Answering your common back pain questions
1. What is the cause of back pain?
Back pain is caused by three main things: bio mechanics, mental health and physiology. But bio mechanical back pain can be due to significant trauma or repetitive minor traumas which don’t cause a problem until it reaches a threshold where it causes injury (disc herniation, facet sprain etc).
2. Does acupuncture work for back pain?
Acupuncture can be a fantastic pain relief option in many cases of back pain. The best way to resolve back pain is to identify the reason it started and treat the cause. Muscle tension can be the cause of some cases of back pain, and acupuncture can be the solution, but often, more in-depth treatment is required, including exercises and stretches that correct the cause of the muscle tension and not just the symptom.
We don’t often use acupuncture as a stand-alone treatment, but integrate it into our treatment plans.
3. Can constipation cause back pain?
Yes. The nerves detecting pain from your bowel also detect pain from your back. Your brain makes the decision that the back is more likely to hurt and causes back pain. To know if this is what is causing your back pain, keep an eye on your bowel habits and how much your back hurts. If it occurs at the same time, it may be the cause.
4. How to relieve back pain fast?
This depends on the cause of your back pain. If there is muscle tightness then heat may help. If there is inflammation then ice may help. But the most important thing to do for most problems is to keep the area mobile in some sort of way.
Whether it is loading the muscle, stretching the muscle or just simple range of motion exercises. Ask an expert if you are unsure.
5. Is upper back pain a sign of cancer?
It can be but this is rare. If you have a history of cancer, this is something we consider when diagnosing you. If you are unwell, experiencing weight loss, extreme fatigue, severe pain through the night that isn’t relieved by any rest, movement or stretching then it is worth seeing a doctor for further investigations.
Upper back pain is far more commonly a symptom of our modern lifestyles and completely mechanical in nature.
6. When should I worry about upper back pain?
If you are experiencing pain, you should always seek help for it.
The majority of the time it is mechanical and can be resolved with some combination of treatment, exercise and lifestyle changes. There is no sense in putting up with it. In some rare cases upper back pain can have a more sinister cause, clinicians are trained to recognise the symptoms.
If you aren’t responding to treatment as expected by your first review visit, we often refer for further investigation to rule out worrying causes, though this is rarely needed in practice as it is uncommon to have sinister back pain.
7. What causes back pain in females?
Most causes of back pain are similar in both male and female and have more to do with your lifestyle and daily activities than your gender.
The exceptions to this can be referred pain in your back from your menstrual cycle or gynecological issues. The nerves that supply your uterus and ovaries come from the lower back, in some people you can “get your wires crossed” and feel the pain in your back.
One of the other gender differences we get is the role of oestrogen in bone density, post menopause (or hysterectomy) women can be more prone to osteoporosis, which can give back issues (crush fractures) further down the line. The other female factor in back pain is pregnancy. The position of your body and the impact of relaxin hormone can lead to back and pelvic pain, this usually resolves post pregnancy.
8. What can cause lower back pain in a woman?
Many things can cause low back pain in women. It may be biomechanical, mental or physiological.
This means it may come from the structures of the back and pelvis itself due to laxity or dysfunction, or to do with an inflammatory/physiological process (menstruation, diet issues, autoimmune etc), or even mental health issues.
9. Why do I get back pain on my period?
The nerves that innervate your uterus come from your lower back. In some cases, the pain that is starting in the uterus can refer to the back. Sometimes this is purely due to your period and its severity, but in some cases, it can be caused by endometriosis, it is important to get a diagnosis so you and your medical team can know how best to treat and support you.