Understanding Back Pain: Recognising the Signs and How We Can Help

At the Sussex Back Pain Clinic in Hove, we understand the complexities of back pain and are dedicated to educating our community about it. While back pain is frequently referred to as a single condition, it’s essential to recognise that it’s always an indication of an underlying issue. Generally, we classify back pain into three primary categories:

  1. Pathological Back Pain: This form of pain stems from various diseases.
  2. Radiculopathy: This category typically includes disc-related problems resulting in arm or leg pain.
  3. Non-Specific Back Pain: This term refers to medically unexplained back pain.


Luckily, serious disease or trauma causes less than 1% of all back pain. However, it is crucial to identify and address these rare but severe conditions promptly. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms along with your back pain, we advise you to consult your general practitioner (GP) immediately:

  • Persistent, escalating pain.
  • Difficulty finding a comfortable position.
  • Intense nighttime discomfort.
  • General unwellness, particularly with fever or chills.
  • Night sweats.
  • Broad sensations of pins and needles, numbness, or weakness.
  • Pain that suddenly emerges after a trauma.
  • Structural deformity, such as standing crooked.
  • Previous history of cancer, long-term steroid use, or HIV.
  • Unintentional weight loss.
  • Recent bacterial infection.
  • Extreme spinal stiffness.
  • Bowel or bladder irregularities.

Radiculopathy, often caused by disc disease or “slipped discs,” constitutes about 5-6% of all back pain. This condition primarily causes nerve entrapment, resulting in shooting pains that radiate into the arms or legs, often accompanied by numbness, tingling in the hands or feet, and, in severe cases, weakness or paralysis. Sciatica is the most common form of radiculopathy, characterised by pain that travels down the back of the leg and into the foot. Of those affected by this type of back pain, approximately 5% may require surgical intervention.

Most reassuringly, non-specific back pain, although often incredibly discomforting, represents the least dangerous category. This type of back pain is typically unexplained by medical science and constitutes a large 94% of all cases. However, this is where our expertise comes in. The realm of manual therapy can address many of these cases, where factors such as abnormal stress and strain, poor posture, lack of mobility, and even psychological stress come into play.

If you’re suffering from back pain without the aforementioned danger signs, we highly recommend consulting an osteopath. Not only can we identify and treat the root cause, but we can also provide invaluable advice to help manage this condition’s many facets.

With the right approach, you can overcome your current discomfort and learn to manage potential risk factors, preventing future recurrence and allowing you to live life without the burden of back pain.


Steve Morris is an Osteopath with over 30 years’ experience. He is a specialist in the field of non-surgical treatment of disc conditions, especially sciatica. He uses various different treatment mediums, from hands on osteopathy and acupuncture to the use of mechanical decompression with IDD Therapy, for which he is one of the country’s leading exponents and experts.

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