Is there a Standard Cure for Back Pain?

As Dr Knut Schroeder explains, "No such thing exists as a standard cure for back pain". There are many different types of treatment available from a range of different specialists. The one thing most doctors advise is that bed rest is usually not appropriate because it can slow the recovery. So, it is (in most cases) important to get on top of the pain and to keep gently moving.

When to get medical advice for back pain:

  • When the pain travels from your back and into the chest area
  • If you have a history of cancer or a depressed immune system (due to steroids, chemotherapy or infection)
  • Loss of sexual function
  • Following major trauma such as an accident (or minor trauma in the case of weak bones e.g. osteoporosis)
  • If over 50 and you get new back pain
  • If under 20 and you get new back pain
  • Pain that prevents you from sleeping
  • Numbness or lack of sensation around the bottom or 'saddle area', anus or genitals
  • Problems walking
  • Sudden muscle weakness
  • Trouble passing urine of opening your bowels
  • Unexplained night sweats, fever, weight loss or tiredness.

When Back Pain gets worse

To get on top of the pain and to get active usually requires adequate pain relief. If symptoms don't improve or get worse it is worth considering seeing a chiropractor or osteopath, or speak to your GP about about other options including physiotherapy, as well as different types of medication.

Assessing Loss of Spine Movement

A major contributing factor to the cause of back pain is movement, or loss of movement. Pain in one area of the spine may cause muscles to lock and protect that area, sometimes leading to over-use in other areas. However, until recently it has been difficult for doctors and physiotherpists to objectively assess precise locations and therefore recommend accurate treatment regimes.

An objective assessment of back movement and muscle activity in individual patients is therefore an ideal starting point, and increasingly the lead sports physicians are using the latest forms of back bio-sensors such as Dorsavi to help assess both their athletes and normal patients.

Treating Sciatica

As Dr Nigel Kellow explains, Sciatica is pain caused as a result of pinching, pressure or damage to the sciatic nerveThe pain from sciatica is normally felt in a line starting as high as the low back, but more often in the buttock. It then travels either down the back of the thigh and calf and into the heel and sole of the foot, or it travels down the outside of the thigh and calf to the ankle and outside of the foot. The route it takes is important as that helps to determine which lumbar nerve roots have caused it. For full information see - The Ageing Spine

Anyone diagnosed with sciatica can be referred to a specialist consultant in spinal medicine or surgery. The consultant will take a full history to try to establish what may have caused the problem, and examine the patient to see how the problem has affected things like posture, flexibility, and nerve function. It is then important to get some imaging of the spine and nerves to visualise and characterise the problem. MRIs show extraordinary detail of bones, ligaments, nerves, and intervertebral discs. 

If you develop sciatica or brachialgia you should be evaluated and cared for by a spinal specialist who will know when to recommend that you have surgery. 

Weighing up the pros and cons of Surgical Treatments

All surgical procedures have associated risks, these include:
  • Bleeding, 
  • infection, and
  • general medical problems,
But with spine surgery there are also additional risks as the spinal cord and nerve roots lie close to the site of surgery No matter how small, there is a risk that symptoms may get worse following surgery. Nonetheless this risk has to be taken into consideration when deciding the following:
  • whether to proceed to surgery, and if so
  • when,
  • what sort of surgery to have, and
  • by whom,
These desicions should all be made in close consultation with your spine specialist. It is worth emphasising though that the majority of patients with sciatica or brachialgia do not need surgery. These patients can be managed by a combination of analgesia, image guided percutaneous treatments, and carefully supervised physical therapy. 

Safest Forms of Surgery for Sciatica

Endoscopic Microdisectomy has particular advantages for those patients suitable for this form of intervention as the operation is performed through an incision no bigger than a needle puncture. The endoscope is far more gentle and precise as a technique, there is much less tissue damage and scarring. This means that the incidence of subsequent pain (both in the muscle and wound) is greatly reduced. Most patients are able to go home the same day. Also, because of the precision and gentleness of the system it is virtually bloodless.

As Spine Specialist, Mr Irfan Malik says, "The procedure is performed through a needle puncture, usually without the need for general anaesthesia, using sedation and local anaesthetic alone. This means that the risks inherent with a general anaesthetic are avoided."



A medication that reduces sensation. Full medical glossary
The external opening of the back passage, the rectum. Full medical glossary
A fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid. Full medical glossary
A common name for the large and/or small intestines. Full medical glossary
Abnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. Full medical glossary
The use of chemical substances to treat disease, particularly cancer. Full medical glossary
A tube-like viewing instrument that is inserted into a body cavity to investigate or treat disorders. Full medical glossary
The raising of the body temperature above norma, which may be accompanied by symptoms such as shivering, headache and sweating. Full medical glossary
The basic unit of genetic material carried on chromosomes. Full medical glossary
Any agent that reduces or abolishes sensation, affecting the whole body. Full medical glossary
The organs specialised to fight infection. Full medical glossary
The number of new episodes of a condition arising in a certain group of people over a specified period of time. Full medical glossary
Invasion by organisms that may be harmful, for example bacteria or parasites. Full medical glossary
One of the tough pads of fibre and cartilage that separate the vertebrae and act as cushions to absorb forces on the spine. Full medical glossary
The part of the back between the lowest ribs and the top of the pelvis. Full medical glossary
An abbreviation for magnetic resonance imaging, a technique for imaging the body that uses electromagnetic waves and a strong magnetic field. Full medical glossary
Tissue made up of cells that can contract to bring about movement. Full medical glossary
Bundle of fibres that carries information in the form of electrical impulses. Full medical glossary
Bundles of fibres that carry information in the form of electrical impulses. Full medical glossary
A condition resulting in brittle bones due to loss of bony tissue. Full medical glossary
Usually related to medical procedures; entering the body through the skin. Full medical glossary
The use of physical therapies such as exercise, massage and manipulation. Full medical glossary
Pain that radiates along the sciatic nerve, which is the main nerve in each leg and the largest nerve in the body. Full medical glossary
Compounds with a common basic structure, which occur naturally in the body. The term may also refer to man-made drugs administered because they act like hormones. Full medical glossary
A group of cells with a similar structure and a specialised function. Full medical glossary
A physical injury or emotionally painful event. Full medical glossary
Affecting the vertebrae, the bones of the spine, or the joints between them Full medical glossary
Relating to the sense of sight (vision). Full medical glossary