Mr Lee Breakwell, SOL Consultant Spinal Surgeon answers your Top 5 FAQs about Back Pain

Mr Lee Breakwell, SOL Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon (Spinal)
Claremont Clinics: Tuesday AM

Why do I have back pain?

Low back pain is an extremely common symptom, and is normal for some people. It is rarely serious, and often responds to simple pain killers, and gentle exercise. It is best to avoid prolonged periods of sitting, or bed rest.  The majority of people experience muscular spasms due to fatigue or inflammation and again these respond to simple painkillers and anti-inflammatory medications. Most back pain is attributable to so-called ‘wear and tear’ which is a normal part of ageing where the tissues change with time making them more susceptible to stiffness and pain.

What is Sciatica?

This is the term often used to describe the electric shock type pain that passes down the leg when you have a trapped nerve in the lower back. Most of the time, true Sciatica will go all the way down to the foot, and may have tingling or pins and needles as well. This can be very painful, and whilst it is distressing it will more often than not go away on its own within a few weeks. The advice for this is to take painkillers, to try and keep mobile, and to seek advice from your doctor if it doesn’t settle. For those people who do not settle quickly (only about 10%), treatment with medication, injections or surgery is usually successful.


What is Stenosis?

This term describes the type of pain that builds up in the leg or legs when standing or walking. This typically makes the legs feel ‘dead’ or ‘heavy’, and the pain often settles quickly on sitting down or leaning forward. This typically affects older people, and is due to a gradual narrowing of the nerve tunnel in the lower back. This is rarely dangerous, and often comes and goes somewhat. If it progresses and is not helped by pain killers, then special nerve pain killers can help, and ultimately surgery may be beneficial.


When should I worry about my back pain?

Serious causes of back pain are extremely rare, and are generally identified using the following key features:

  • Back pain that is worse at night
  • Back pain associated with weight loss and hot sweats
  • Back pain in someone with a previous history of cancer or infection somewhere in the body
  • Back pain with weakness in the legs
  • Back pain with difficulty in passing urine

All of these can suggest a more serious cause and you should seek urgent medical attention.


What is Cauda Equina Syndrome?

Cauda Equina Syndrome is a serious but rare set of problems when multiple nerves in the lower back are suddenly squashed, commonly by a slipped disc. The key problem is if you lose the feeling of needing to urinate, have numbness around your bottom or ‘saddle’ area, or have pain in both your legs. This can come on very quickly.


A private consultation with Mr Breakwell at Claremont is £200 if you don’t have health insurance.  To book an appointment, call our friendly Private Patient Team on 0114 263 2114 or email  You will need a referral letter from your GP or you can see one of our Private GPs if you prefer.  

Copyright Lee Breakwell, 2018.


Date: 01/07/2018
By: technical
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