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Acute or short-term back pain generally lasts from a few days to a few weeks. Most lower back pain is mechanical in nature.1 When back pain lasts longer than 3 months, it is called chronic back pain.1,2

Regardless of the source of your back pain, what type of back pain you have or how long you’ve had it, if you find that it’s bothering you, you should go and see your doctor.

If you have had back pain for more than 3 months, it should be addressed as soon as possible as pain might be due to an underlying condition. Seeing your doctor and getting a proper diagnosis will ensure that you have an appropriate treatment for your back pain and may help you to live a less painful life.


Back pain can have a big impact on your life – both physically and emotionally.

Although most back pain is acute and goes away after a few days or weeks, chronic back pain describes pain that lasts for more than 3 months.2 Physical pain can make regular parts of daily life, such as walking, standing and sitting, painful and debilitating.

In addition to the physical impact of chronic back pain, it may affect other aspects of your life, such as your sleep habits and overall mood.

Your emotional well-being, and your ability to work and study, can be affected by your back pain and sometimes lead to further anxiety and depression – especially if this pain doesn’t go away.3

We may think of back pain as something that only affects the elderly, but that isn’t the case. As many as 80% of us will experience an episode of back pain during our lifetime,4 and it’s estimated that approximately 23% of adults experience lower back pain that has lasted for more than 3 months at any time.4         

Therefore, especially if your back pain persists, a visit to the doctor is essential. Ensure that you’re prepared to answer your doctor’s questions by understanding how back problems are diagnosed.


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:a2718.
  2. Koes BW, van Tulder MW, Thomas S. Diagnosis and treatment of low back pain. BMJ. 2006;332:1430
  3. National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society (NASS). Differentiating inflammatory and mechanical back pain. 2012.
  4. Airaksinen O, et al. Chapter 4. European guidelines for the management of chronic nonspecific low back pain. Eur Spine J. 2006;15(Suppl. 2):S192–S300.