Back pain – causes and treatments

Mr Mohammed Ahmed Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon has clinics at The Holly on Tuesday evenings and Friday mornings. 

Back pain is a common problem that affects around one in three of us at some point in our lives and if you’re suffering from it you‘ll know it’s no joke.

Often caused by a simple muscle, ligament or tendon strain, back pain is usually not a serious problem and in many cases can be treated by over the counter medication and pain killers.

However sometimes back pain can be a chronic condition lasting on and off for several weeks or even months and years.

In this article consultant Orthopaedic Spinal Surgeon Mr Mohammed Ahmed answers your most frequently asked questions on back pain.

You can read more about back pain here.

Why do I have back pain?
Pain in the lower back can be a result of conditions affecting:

  • the bony lumbar spine
  • discs between the vertebrae, ligaments around the spine
  • discs, spinal cord and/or nerves
  • muscles of the lower back
  • internal organs of the pelvis and abdomen
  • the skin covering the lumbar area.

An irritation or problem with any of these structures can cause lower back pain and/or pain that radiates or is referred (goes to) other parts of the body.

When should I worry about my back pain?
In most cases, it is not necessary to see a doctor for back pain because the pain usually goes away with or without treatment. However, a trip to the doctor is probably a good idea if you have numbness or tingling, if your pain is severe and doesn’t improve with medications and rest, or if you have pain after a fall or an injury.

What is sciatica?
Sciatica is the name given to any sort of pain that is caused by irritation or compression of the nerve in the lower back. Sciatica is a symptom. It consists of leg pain, which might feel like a bad leg cramp, or it can be excruciating, shooting pain that makes standing or sitting nearly impossible.

The pain might be worse when you sit, sneeze, or cough. Sciatica can occur suddenly or it can develop gradually. You might also feel weakness, numbness, or a burning or tingling (“pins and needles”) sensation down your leg, possibly even in your toes.

What is stenosis?
Spinal stenosis is the narrowing of spaces in the spine which causes pressure on the spinal cord and nerves. The spinal nerve roots in the lower back are compressed, or choked, and this can produce symptoms of sciatica.

What is cauda equine?
The cauda equina is formed by nerve roots caudal to the level of spinal cord termination. Cauda equina syndrome is caused by compression of the nerves, causing one or more of the following: bladder and/or bowel dysfunction, reduced sensation in the saddle (perineal) area, and sexual dysfunction, with possible neurological deficit in the lower limb (motor/sensory loss, reflex change).

I don´t want surgery but are there any other treatments you can offer for back pain?
There are many different treatment options for the back pain beside surgery. If you have ongoing (chronic) back pain or severe back pain the first step is to have a consultation. We can then discuss your symptoms and what you are experiencing. We can also discuss any treatments you have already tried and the different treatments that may address your particular problem.

What are treatment options for back pain, besides surgery?
Acute pain usually gets better without any specific treatment other than over the counter pain killers.

There are different treatments for back pain that doesn’t improve with simple pain killers or chronic pain. These include:

  • Hot or Cold Packs
    Helps in sore, stiff backs and reduces muscle spasms.
  • Exercise
    The right exercise can help with the back pain. Physiotherapy can help with this.
  • Medication
    Over-the-counter drugs.
    Medications described by the doctor.
  • Behavior Changes
    Learning to lift, push and pull in the right way. Physiotherapy can help with this.
  • Injections
    Different pain relieving injections can be given to treat back pain.
  • Alternative Medical Treatment
    Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation.
  • Surgery
    Surgery is usually offered when other forms of treatment doesn’t work. There are different type of surgeries that can be offered depending on the underlying cause.

Do you use keyhole techniques?
Yes, I use keyhole techniques in treating some back pain problems.

You can read more about back pain here.

An initial consultation with Mr Ahmed costs from £200 – £250, if you don’t have health insurance. 

To book a consultation, call our friendly appointments team on 020 8936 1201. 

For more information on self-pay pricing just call our friendly Self-Pay Team on 020 8936 1157 or email

Read more about Orthopaedic (back and spinal) services at The Holly Private Hospital here.


Date: 05/10/2016