Solutions to back pain

Written by: Mr Jonathan Bull
Edited by: Emma McLeod

Back pain can be unbearable, but it can also be helped. Whether your back pain is mild or severe, you have options to try in order to find a solution. Mr Jonathan Bull, a leading consultant neurosurgeon, clarifies the non-surgical and surgical steps that can be taken to reduce your back pain.

An unidentifiable woman sitting on a clinic bed with her back turned to the camera. A medical specialist is examining her back for pain.

How common is back pain?

Back pain is quite common and the majority of people will have it in their lifetime. It’s suggested that evolution has resulted in different stresses on the human skeleton.


Changes to everyday living and work life, such as the use of computers (particularly laptops) and sitting hunched over, has potentially worsened the usual stresses put on the skeleton. Typically, back pain is self-limiting and intermittent; it may last weeks but occasionally months.


How is back pain treated?

Typically, back pain is best managed with lifestyle adjustments and simple medical interventions. If these don’t work and the pain is severe, surgery is often the next consideration to find a solution.


If the pain is uncontrollable or associated with weakness, then getting checked at a hospital is advisable. Usually, physiotherapy and exercise involving stretching (like Pilates and yoga) can help. If they are unsuccessful, epidural and facet joint injections can provide relief.


If non-surgical methods are unsuccessful at reducing pain or weakness, surgery can be considered. Persistent weakness is best treated with microsurgical decompression and this usually involves a 24-48-hour hospital stay. Occasionally, more resistant pain might require decompression and fixation or fusion when other options are exhausted.


Mr Jonathan Bull has trained extensively to treat a variety of neurological conditions, including back pain. Discover how he can help you and arrange a consultation by visiting his profile.

By Mr Jonathan Bull

Mr Jonathan Bull is a consultant neurosurgeon and spinal surgeon. He treats a full range of brain and spinal disorders which cause pain and dysfunction in the spine and the limbs with both simple and complex procedures.

He studied neurophysiology and medicine at Cambridge University before qualifying in 2000.

Mr Bull completed initial surgical training at St Mary’s campus, Imperial College, followed by higher surgical training in neurosurgery under the tutelage of Henry Marsh in the south Thames Programme. Alongside this, he achieved a Doctor of Medicine (MD Res) at University College London (UCL) specialising in MRI imaging of paediatric brain tumours.

He then undertook two specialist fellowships in complex spine surgery, initially as the Sir Victor Horsley Complex Spine fellow between the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, Stanmore and the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery (Queen Square). He was subsequently awarded a European Association of Neurosurgical Societies (EANS) fellowship at University Hospital Klinikum rechts der Isar. He became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in 2011.

Mr Bull joined the Barts Health Trust as a Consultant in 2012; his NHS practice is based in the Trust’s Royal London Hospital.

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