Diagnosing back pain 

Most cases of back pain do not require medical attention and can be treated with over-the-counter painkillers and self-care.

However, you should visit your GP if you are worried about your condition or struggling to cope with the pain.

Seeing your GP

Your GP will ask you about your symptoms and examine your back. 

The examination will usually assess your ability to sit, stand, walk and lift your legs, as well as testing the range of movement in your back.

Your GP may also ask you about any illnesses or injuries you may have had, as well as the type of work you do and your lifestyle. Below are some of the questions your GP may ask. It might help to think about these before your appointment..

  • When did your back pain start?
  • Where are you feeling pain?
  • Have you had back problems in the past?
  • Can you describe the pain?
  • What makes the pain better or worse?

What happens next

If your GP thinks there may be a more serious cause, they will refer you for further tests, such as an X-ray or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan.

Otherwise, your GP can advise you about things you can do and treatments that may help reduce your pain and speed up your recovery.

Find out about treating back pain

Page last reviewed: 03/02/2015

Next review due: 03/02/2017