Inflammatory back pain affects approximately 3% of adults.1 This kind of back pain is often mistaken for mechanical back pain. There are several conditions that can cause inflammatory back pain, some of which are difficult to diagnose. Fortunately, in the last 10 years, scientific advances have made it easier for doctors to identify some of these conditions, and to manage them.2
Inflammatory back pain can impact your life in many ways. It is important to work with your doctor to find out whether your pain is inflammatory because this can impact how the pain is managed in the future. Early diagnosis is also important as some causes of back pain may become worse over time.
Although you may find that exercise or painkillers purchased from your pharmacy may ease some of your symptoms,it is still important that you go to your doctor to be diagnosed properly.
Could your back pain be due to inflammation? Complete the Symptom Checker and find out.
Inflammatory back pain can have certain features that distinguish it from other types of back pain, specifically mechanical back pain. These features include:
Inflammatory back pain may be caused by certain autoimmune diseases.4 Some autoimmune conditions that are linked closely to back pain are non-radiographic axial spondyloarthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis and reactive arthritis.
It is important that inflammatory back pain is recognised and diagnosed so that it may be managed properly.
An autoimmune condition is when the body is attacking itself and its own healthy tissue. There are several types of autoimmune conditions and some of these are very closely linked to inflammatory back pain.
Axial spondyloarthritis is an umbrella term for two conditions that cause inflammatory back pain, ankylosing spondylitis and non-radiographic axial spondyloarthritis.
Other inflammatory arthritic conditions – some arthritic conditions that lead to inflammatory back pain can start in different parts of the body. These inflammatory arthritic conditions can affect the skin (psoriatic arthritis),6 eyes or urinary tract (reactive arthritis),7 intestines or bowels (enteropathic arthritis)8 or joints (rheumatoid arthritis).9
Although symptoms of these diseases most often include tenderness and swelling in the affected joints or tissues, in many people, this can also develop into inflammatory back pain.
There is no simple test for most of these conditions. To help diagnose these disorders, doctors may complete a physical examination, perform MRI imaging and/or order blood tests to check for genetic markers.
There are different types of back pain and it's important to find out which type of pain you have, so it can be managed appropriately. If you have had back pain for more than 3 months, you should complete our short Symptom Checker to help you and your doctor understand if your back pain is more likely to be inflammatory.