Back Pain Basics: Types, Symptoms, and When to Seek Medical Help

Posted on: 27 December 2022


Back pain is a common problem, with many possible sources. Whether your back pain is caused by a simple strain or a more serious underlying condition, understanding the different types of back pain and when to seek medical attention can help you manage your symptoms and prevent further complications: read on for four common varieties of back pain, and for when you should consider contacting a medical professional.

Muscle Strain

One common type of back pain is muscle strain, which can be caused by overuse, poor posture, or improper lifting techniques when exercising. This type of pain is often characterised by soreness and stiffness in the muscles, and it can usually be treated with rest, ice, and over-the-counter pain medication.

Herniated Discs

Herniated discs are another cause of back pain. The discs in the spine act as cushions between the vertebrae and allow the spine to bend and move. When a disc becomes herniated, it bulges out of place and can put pressure on the nerves, causing pain. Herniated discs are often treated with rest, physical therapy, and pain medication, but in some cases, surgery may be necessary.


Sciatica is a type of back pain that occurs when the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back through the buttocks and down the legs, becomes compressed or inflamed. Sciatica can present as pain, numbness, or tingling in the lower back, buttocks and legs. Sciatica is often treated with physical therapy, pain medication, and in some cases, surgery.


Osteoarthritis is another common cause of back pain. This condition occurs when the cartilage in the joints wears down, causing bone-on-bone friction and pain. Osteoarthritis can be treated with pain medication and physical therapy; however, replacement surgery may be required in serious cases.

When to See a Healthcare Professional

In most instances, back pain can be managed with self-care measures such as rest, ice, and over-the-counter pain medication; however, there are certain situations in which it is important to see a healthcare professional. If you have a fever, difficulty urinating, or if you have lost control of your bladder or bowels, these could also be signs of a more serious underlying condition that requires medical attention. When it comes to your health, it is always best to take a cautious approach. If your pain is severe or persistent, or if you have other concerning symptoms, seeking medical attention can help you identify the source of the problem, manage your symptoms and prevent further complications. 

For more info about back pain, contact a local doctor.