Common causes for neck and back pain

Neck pain and back pain are extremely common and there are many different causes, ranging from injuries to joint and disc problems and – very often – everyday habits that take their toll over time.

If you’re unsure what’s causing your neck or back pain, our specialist team can help. London Back Pain Clinic also offers a range of treatments, including tailored physiotherapy services.

Some of the common causes of neck and back pain relate to factors in everyday life. It’s very easy to unwittingly adopt bad habits that may cause neck and back pain, such as poor posture and a bad set-up work. In fact, neck and back pain can be very common among office workers who spend long hours sitting at a desk, while people whose jobs involve lots of lifting may also be at risk.

Something as simple as sleeping on a poor mattress with a pillow that doesn’t provide adequate head support could trigger neck pain, and carrying a heavy shoulder bag, day after day, is another cause that’s not uncommon.

The impact of everyday factors should not be underestimated: As well as short-term aches and pains, if not addressed, they may in some cases lead to worse or ongoing problems later on. Our specialist physiotherapists can advise on any everyday or lifestyle factors that may be contributing to your neck and back pain.

An increasingly recognised cause of neck and upper back pain is so-called ‘tech neck’, due to the amount of time so many people now spend with their heads tilted downwards looking at a smartphone or laptop screen.

Our heads are quite heavy – but while we’re in a good upright posture, their weight is distributed through the whole of our backs and shoulders. Tilting our heads forwards for extended periods however, while slouched over a screen, can put a great deal of strain on the muscles in the neck. Taking steps to reduce the time spent in a ‘tech neck’ position is key, while corrective exercises can also be very helpful. A physiotherapist will be able to assess and advise on this.

Sports injuries are another common cause of neck and back pain. These can be acute: where the pain comes on quickly following a tear or sprain to a muscle, joint or ligament, for example. Or they can get gradually worse over time. This might happen due to poor technique in the gym, for example, not allowing enough rest days in your training regime, or ignoring ‘niggles’ and continuing with a fitness activity – despite your body trying to tell you something’s not quite right and it needs some attention!

Our blog  about weight training and back pain highlights how ensuring you have a strong core, building up slowly with a new fitness regime and listening to your body are all important in avoiding sports injuries and back pain.

Neck and back pain can also be caused by degeneration within the spinal discs and joints. This might include prolapsed or ‘slipped’ discs putting pressure on nerves in the lower back (lumbar spine) or neck (cervical spine), as well as pain arising from the facet joints (the joints that sit alongside the vertebrae and allow for small movements and motion along the spine).

Both the spinal discs and facet joints can be vulnerable to ‘wear and tear’, resulting in degenerative changes that may cause neck and back pain. These things are sometimes referred to as ‘Degenerative Disc Disease’ and ‘Facet Joint Disease/Syndrome’, although they are more about changes that occur over time, rather than being true ‘diseases’.

Wear and tear changes in the discs and facet joints are very common as we age, but can affect younger adults too, possibly as a result of genetic factors or injuries which may accelerate the degeneration process.

Neck and back pain is also associated with a wide range of other health conditions, including multiple sclerosis (MS), fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome (ME), as well as scoliosis.

London Back Pain Clinic has treatment facilities located across London.