In this section, we describe the conditions that lead to back pain.
For each condition, we discuss:

The conditions are organised into four categories (explained below). We have also listed all of the conditions in alphabetical order, in the A-Z section; in time, we aim to cover most, if not all, of the problems that can lead to back pain.

Disc Pathology

The human spine is made up of individual vertebrae, or units of bone, that are stacked on top of each other. Intervertebral discs then sit between these units of bone, acting as shock absorbers. The discs themselves are designed to be flexible, but they can be damaged or compromised, by ageing, or being squashed by too much pressure (or both). Learn more about disc pathology >>>

The term pathology refers to something in the body that is not working properly, due to damage or disease.

Problems with Ageing

As we grow older, the spine tends to degenerate. For example, the bones in the spine may lose some of their mass (due to osteoporosis), and the joints that link the vertebrae together can become painful due to arthritis. As a result, back pain tends to be more common in older people. See our problems with ageing page >>>

Referred Pain

Due to the structure of the nervous system, back pain is not simply confined to the back. Referred pain is fairly common: this occurs when the brain (which receives and interprets pain signals) is unable to identify the exact location of the problem; as a result, the pain associated with a specific disorder is often not centred on the cause. For example, a spinal condition may lead to pain in the arms or legs. Read about referred pain >>>

Structural Defects

All back pain is caused by internal, structural problems. However, there are some conditions that are actually visible: they have an external, physical manifestation. For example, some people may have a pronounced curve in their upper spine, causing them to hunch over; others might have scoliosis, a condition that causes the spine to curve from side to side. We refer to these problems as structural defects. Visit out structural defects page >>>