Medical conditions that cause back pain
Conditions that can cause back pain include:
- a slipped (prolapsed) disc (a disc of cartilage in the spine pressing on a nerve) – this can cause back pain and numbness, tingling and weakness in other parts of the body
- sciatica (irritation of the nerve that runs from the lower back to the feet) – this can cause pain, numbness, tingling and weakness in the lower back, buttocks, legs and feet
- ankylosing spondylitis (swelling of the joints in the spine) – this causes pain and stiffness that's usually worse in the morning and improves with movement
- spondylolisthesis (a bone in the spine slipping out of position) – this can cause lower back pain and stiffness, as well as numbness and a tingling sensation
These conditions are treated differently to non-specific back pain.
Very rarely, back pain can be a sign of a serious problem such as:
- a broken bone in the spine
- an infection
- cauda equina syndrome (where the nerves in the lower back become severely compressed)
- some types of cancer, such as multiple myeloma (a type of bone marrow cancer)
If you see a GP with back pain, they'll look for signs of these.