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The most common type of back pain is mechanical back pain.1 People with mechanical back pain often describe it as “throbbing” or “aching”.1 They can also find that their pain gets worse with movement and gets better with rest.

Mechanical back pain can impact many aspects of your life, and is often caused by a strain or an injury; however, it’s essential to get a correct diagnosis as early as you can.

You can read more about common features and different types of mechanical back pain below, or take our 5-question Symptom Checker to assess the likelihood of whether your back pain is inflammatory. 


  • Can begin at any age.
  • Morning stiffness lasts less than 30 minutes.
  • Pain often improves with rest.
  • Variable onset, may develop quickly. 
  • Pain is usually associated with injury or strain.
  • Pain can be described as “throbbing” or “aching”.


*The list below outlines several examples of different types of mechanical back pain but is not exhaustive.

LUMBER STRAIN OR SPRAIN1 – this is usually due to muscle injuries. For example, injuries may be a result of lifting an object awkwardly, heavy lifting or a sports injury.

HERNIATED (SLIPPED) DISC1 – this refers to damage or a problem with the spinal discs, the rubbery cushions that sit between the individual bones (vertebrae) of your spine1 . Sometimes, the disc has moved from its usual position (slipped disc) and, as a result, causes pain because it irritates nearby nerves. This nerve pain is called neurogenic pain – another type of back pain.3 If the herniated disc is in the lower back,the pain can often feel worse in your leg than in your back.

VERTEBRAL FRACTURE1 – broken bones in your spine can be caused by hard physical impacts, such as sports injuries or car accidents. Additionally, patients can suffer from stress fractures, which are small fissures visible on X-ray that can be very painful. Vertebral fractures can also occur with a condition called osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition occurring later in life where your bones weaken, resulting in a higher likelihood of fractures.

DEGENERATIVE DISC DISEASE1,4 – this is when one or more of the spinal discs begin to deteriorate. These discs act as padding when the spine moves or bears weight.

SPINAL OSTEOARTHRITIS1,5 – a degenerative disorder that is common with older age and that can cause pain and stiffness in the spine and lower back due to a breakdown of the cartilage of the joints and discs in the spine.

CONGENITAL DEFORMITY1 – conditions are referred to as congenital when they’re present from birth. These deformities occur when the spine does not develop correctly in the womb and are rare. Some congenital deformities are mechanical causes of back pain. These deformities include things such as scoliosis (the spine is curved from side to side) and kyphosis (the top of the spine is over-curved and rounded). A congenital deformity that leads to back pain is usually diagnosed during childhood.


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.


  1. Cohen SP, et al. Management of low back pain. BMJ. 2008;337:a2167.
  2. National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society (NASS). Differentiating inflammatory and mechanical back pain. 2012..
  3. Da Silva JAP, Woolf AD (Eds.). Rheumatology in Practice. London: Springer-Verlag; 2010.
  4. Deyo RA, Weinstein JN. Low back pain. N Engl J Med. 2001;344:363–70.
  5. Goode AP, Carey TS, Jordan JM. Low back pain and lumbar spine osteoarthritis: how are they related? Curr Rheumatol Rep. 2013;15:305.