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What is chronic back pain?

Chronic back pain is often characterised as a deep, dull or burning pain in one area of the back and in some cases the pain can travel down the legs. Chronic is the term used when the back pain is reoccurring or when it lasts more than 12 weeks as opposed to acute back pain which resolves within less than 6 weeks. Chronic back pain can rarely be relieved by any form of standard medication or treatment. Chronic back pain sufferers experience difficulty when performing regular daily activities and may not be able to work in jobs that involve manual labour and they will not be able maintain certain hobbies.

Physiotherapy is a very effective way to help reduce the problems you are experiencing that are associated with chronic back pain. has specialist physiotherapists who can provide you with a thorough assessment and devise a treatment programme to suit your needs.

What causes chronic back pain?

The spine is made up of numerous small, inter-linked bones called vertebrae. The vertebrae are separated by fluid like discs which act as shock absorbers that help cushion your bones and allow your back to bend. Numerous muscles and ligaments run along your spine to help support it at rest and during movement. The spine is also home to the spinal cord which is the bundle of nerves that carries messages between the brain and the rest of the body.

The initial cause of back pain is commonly a result of trauma or degenerative changes affecting part of the spine. Disc problems such as herniation or slipped disc can also lead to ongoing back problems and associated conditions such as sciatica. There may be other minor problems in the structures and tissues of the lower back that result in pain.

Some of the factors that are thought to lead to chronic back pain include:
  • Trauma
  • Overuse injuries
  • Stand, sit or bend down for long periods
  • Poor manual handling
  • Heavy lifting
  • After a trip or a fall
  • Emotions – stress or anxiety
  • Tension
  • Overweight

Why does my pain persist?

In many cases, the causes of chronic back pain are unknown. With chronic pain there is no longer any tissue damage or inflammation and the known healing time for the tissues involved has passed, therefore the pain must be caused by other factors.

With chronic conditions, it is believed that the brain adapts to pain over time in the attempt to further protect the affected area. Due to these protective mechanisms, the individual may become more sensitive to the pain. Sensitisation of the brain means that the brain is wrongly told that the body is in danger therefore changing a person’s perception of the pain. Sensitisation may also result in pain travelling to other areas of the body due to the brain’s misconception of the exact whereabouts of the pain.

Eventually pain may be produced by even the smallest of movements. The natural response to pain is to stop the activity that is causing it. Over time, the amount of activity at which pain is felt gradually decreases leading to increased pain avoidance, reduced physical activity, disuse and disability. Reduced activity can also lead to further problems such as muscle deconditioning, weakness and decreased general fitness.

Because chronic back painis not necessarily a sign of damage, it is instead believed to be causedby the individual’s response to threat, real or perceived. This does not mean that the pain does not exist, more that the body responds differently to certain stimulus or activities. Due to the lack of physical damage in many cases, chronic back pain can be extremely difficult to treat. Because of this it is highly important to choose a specialist physiotherapist that is experienced in treating chronic pain.

What are the symptoms of chronic back pain?

With chronic back pain, you may experience a deep, dull or burning pain in one area of the back. Chronic back pain can come on gradually if you strain your back over timeor the pain may develop immediately after twisting your back awkwardly or after lifting somethingheavy. The pain may also develop for no apparent reason. The severity of the pain in your back can vary from mild to severe. Primarily, the symptoms are located in your back but in some cases it can spread to one or both of your buttocks, thighs and legs. You may experience tingling, burning, or a pins-and-needles type sensation in your legs. The pain is often aggravated by activity and can be eased with rest. Chronic back pain can persist for several months or longer.

What physiotherapy treatment will I receive for chronic back pain?

There is a variety of physiotherapy options available to you to treat chronic back pain. has specialist physiotherapists that will provide you with a comprehensive assessment and physiotherapy programme which aims to focus on your personal goals and the problems you are experiencing. With chronic back pain, physiotherapy treatments may not be directly focused on the location of the pain. Physiotherapy aims to treat your body and mind as a whole to help improve quality of life, function, mobility and general fitness in the attempt to normalise your perception of pain. Physiotherapy treatment may include: Participating in physiotherapy with will help you overcome the problems you have been experiencing as a result of chronic back pain. Physiotherapy will help reduce symptoms, prevent the likelihood of future problems occurring and get you back doing what it is you love the most. The success of your physiotherapy will highly depend on your commitment and adherence to your personal programme.


Chronic back pain is the deep, dull or burning pain in one area of the back that persists longer than 3 months. Back pain can be brought on by a number of factors including trauma, heavy lifting and overuse injuries which results in the damage or degeneration of the vertebral bodies or discs that make up the spine. Often the causes of chronic back pain are unknown. Pain that persists beyond the time taken for tissues to heal is believed to be due to adaptations made by the brain to protect from further damage. Sensitisation of the brain causes a change in the individual’s perception of pain in response to threat. This may result in reduced activity therefore allowing the pain to become chronic.

Chronic back pain sufferers commonly experience a deep, dull pain of varying severities in a certain area of the back which sometimes radiates down one or both of the legs. Physiotherapy is highly effective in the treatment of chronic back pain to help relieve your symptoms, improve the mobility in your back and prevent future problems occurring. The specialist physiotherapists at will provide you with a personal programme that will focus on your problems and help you to return to your everyday activities and hobbies. Call now on 0330 088 7800 for more information or to book an appointment please contact us. You can also book online today!

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