Back pain: Causes, types and treatment

Written by: Dr Jawaad Malik
Edited by: Karolyn Judge

Back pain is a common but no less frustrating condition that can severely affect quality of life.  Here to discuss the causes, types and treatment, among other aspects of back pain management, is leading pain management specialist Dr Jawaad Malik.

Man with back pain sat at computer

What are the common causes of back pain?

Back pain is one of the most common reasons for people to seek medical help or call in sick. Furthermore, the shift to remote work during Covid may have altered our work setup and posture, potentially contributing to back pain


Causes of back pain can be classified into axial or radicular.


Axial back pain 

A muscle strain is a common cause of axial back pain as are facet joints and sacro-iliac joints.


Radicular back pain

A common cause of radicular back pain is narrowing of the space where nerve roots exit the spine, which can be a result of stenosis, bone spurs, disc herniation or other conditions.


Back pain is a leading cause of disability. If you are experiencing discomfort, it's essential to address it early to maintain overall well-being.



How can I relieve back pain at home?

To relieve back pain at home, try gentle stretches, hot or cold packs, over-the-counter pain relievers, and maintaining good posture.



What are the different types of back pain?

Different types of back pain include acute, which lasts a few days to a few weeks, and chronic, lasting more than three months. Radicular pain, associated with nerve compression and axial pain, originating from the spine (facet joints). 



When should get medical attention for back pain?

Most back pain gradually improves, usually within a few weeks, with home treatment and self-care.


Contact your doctor for back pain that:


  • Lasts longer than a few weeks.
  • Is severe and doesn't improve with rest.
  • Goes down one or both legs, especially if it travels below the knee.
  • Causes weakness, numbness, or tingling in one or both legs.
  • Is paired with unexplained weight loss.


In rare cases, back pain can be a sign of a serious medical problem. 


Seek immediate care for back pain in that:


  • Causes new bowel or bladder problems.
  • Is accompanied by a fever.
  • Comes after a fall, a blow to the back or another injury.



What are the non-surgical treatment options for back pain?

For non-surgical relief from back pain, various options are available:


Facet joint injections

Targeting specific joints to alleviate pain and inflammation.


Radiofrequency denervation

Disrupting pain signals by using heat on specific nerves.


Transforaminal epidurals

Injecting medication into the epidural space to reduce inflammation.


Trigger point injections

Addressing tight knots in muscles that may contribute to pain.


Sacro-iliac joint injections

Targeting the joints connecting the spine and pelvis to reduce pain.


Piriformis injections

Easing pain associated with the piriformis muscle in the buttocks.



Drugs to manage pain and inflammation.



Targeted exercises and stretches, which aim to improve strength and flexibility.



Inserting thin needles at specific points to relieve pain and improve energy flow.


TENS machine

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation for pain relief.


Massage therapy

Soft tissue manipulation, which reduces muscle tension and promotes relaxation.




Dr Malik can help determine the most suitable non-surgical approach based on your specific condition and needs. Arrange a consultation with him via his Top Doctors profile.

By Dr Jawaad Malik
Pain medicine

Dr Jawaad Malik is an esteemed Pain Medicine Specialist and Consultant Anaesthetist with expertise in back pain, sciatica, musculoskeletal pain, sports injuries, neuropathic pain, interventional pain management, Fluoroscopic/ultrasound-guided pain procedures and Medicolegal work. He is highly regarded in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Surrey, and West London for his exceptional medical care and patient-centred approach. 

Dr Malik obtained his Bachelor's degree in surgery and medicine and a Bachelor of Science degree from St Bartholomew’s and the Royal London School of Medicine and Dentistry. He completed his training in world-renowned Teaching hospitals such as The Royal Marsden, The Royal Free, as well as The Royal London, UCL, Moorfields Eye Hospital, Charing Cross, Hammersmith, and St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington. He was awarded FRCA, FFPMRCA from the Royal College of Anaesthetists and the Faculty of Pain Medicine, and the European Diploma of Regional Anaesthesia (EDRA) in Greece. Additionally, he holds an Executive MBA from the US, further establishing him as a knowledgeable and highly-trained professional in Anaesthesia, Regional anaesthesia, and Pain management

Dr Malik is a leading expert in his field and is dedicated to the education of his colleagues and trainee pain specialists. He holds MAcadMEd teaching credentials and is Course Director for the RCOA accredited Regional Anaesthesia Course at Frimley and Wexham Park Hospital. He is also Faculty for the Ultrasound in Interventional Pain medicine Comprehensive Course and has taught both nationally and internationally

Dr Malik's research has been published in various peer-reviewed journals, and he is a member of the Royal College of Anaesthetists, including the Faculty of Pain Medicine. He is fluent in English, Hindi, Urdu, and Punjabi, making him accessible to a broad range of patients. Dr Malik's private practice locations include The Runnymede Hospital, Nuffield Health Woking, and the Princess Margaret Hospital. 

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