Mechanical back pain
Mechanical Back Pain is also called by a number of other medical terms. These are:
- Non-specific back pain
- Osteoarthritis of spine (without pathological/neurological changes)
- Simple backache
- Spondylosis (without pathological/neurological changes)
- Back strain or sprain
- Lumbar spondylosis or spondylitis (without pathological/neurological changes)
- Spasm of back
- Back pain
- Degenerative back problem or disease
- Chronic back pain
- Muscular back pain
Most people (60-80% of the world’s population) will experience back pain at some point in their lifetime. 85-90% of all episodes of back pain are non-specific or mechanical in nature.
Mechanical means that the source of the pain may be in the spinal joints, vertebrae or soft tissues. However, in the vast majority of cases of mechanical back pain it is not possible to identify a pathologically definable problem. That is, no structural abnormality of the back can be found on examination or x-ray to account for the symptoms.
Multiple studies have shown that spinal abnormalities are as common in symptom free individuals as they are in those who have back pain. These incidental findings may include:
- Non-specific degenerative changes.
- Bulging inter-vertebral discs.
- Desiccated discs.
- Soft tissue and/or bony abnormalities.
Specialised investigations such as Computerised Tomography (CT) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans have also failed to identify a cause for MBP.
Many alarming abnormalities in the lumbar spine and associated structures have been discovered in symptom free people with normal back function on MRI/CT imaging. Mechanical back pain is therefore best described as non-specific.
Once an individual has experienced their first episode of mechanical back pain, although the episode itself is usually self-limiting and resolves quickly, there is an increased risk of further back pain episodes.
Risk factors for recurrent back pain include:
- Previous pain syndromes (e.g. Fibromyalgia).
- Poor socio-economic status.
- Psychological distress at presentation.
- Dissatisfaction with employment.
- Heavy manual work.
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Amended December 2010