Lower back pain symptoms can range from mild discomfort to severe pain

The severity of the symptoms does not always tell us much about the causes of back pain

It is perfectly possible to have very severe lower back pain symptoms in the absence of any major tissue damage.

However, there are some serious back problems that you do need to be mindful of and I have described these signs and symptoms in each section below. You can also read more about red flags in this section.


Even though less than 1% of back pain sufferers experience serious problems you do need to see your doctor to get checked out and to get a reliable diagnosis of the exact cause of your back pain. The latest clinical guidelines (1-3) suggest that back pain is categorised into three different groups:

  • Non-specific lower back pain (95%)
  • Nerve root irritations, also called sciatica ( less than 5%)
  • Serious spinal problems (less than 1%)

My patients most commonly describe their pain as burning pain or sharp pain. Often people are very worried if the pain is very severe or extreme or if they have experienced sudden lower back pain. Most of you will have non-specific lower back pain.

The pages below discuss these common symptoms, talk about what might be the causing the pain and suggest treatment for back pain.


burning back pain
Burning Back Pain – a lower back pain symptom that can be caused by many different problems – not always nerve pain.
severe back pain can be very alarming but it does not always mean that there is soemtihing seriously wrong with your spine Severe Back Pain – Very frightening when you have it, extreme pain makes most of us feel that there is something seriously wrong with our backs but this is rarely the case.
sudden back pain is not always a sign of serious problems Sudden lower back pain – Nothing is worse than being fine one minute and doubled up in pain the next. It is worrying and leaves you feeling very vulnerable and unsure what to do. Sudden pain is not always a sign of something serious and there is a lot you can do to ease the symptoms.

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Lower Back Pain Toolkit Home Page


I'm really disappointed that one of the best online resources for evidence based guidelines is no longer being funded. The Clinical Knowledge Summaries are excellent and I'm waiting to see what will replace them. In the meantime the following documents do remain relevant - the CKS site sometimes fails to load however, so keep trying and these should eventiually work.

1.Non-Specific or Simple Lower Back Pain Guidelines

2.Sciatica Guidelines

3.Low back pain - initial management - The Map of Medicine - International (2011) - You need to register but it is free and you will gain full acccess to the helpful maps which are clinical pathways.




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