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Ask an expert: Back pain and back problems

Andrew Quaile - Ask the expert

Want to know more about back pain and back problems?


Back pain is one of the most common reasons that people go to their doctor. Back problems can be due to a wide range of causes, some of them originating elsewhere in the body. back pain is a debilitating condition that results in many days off work in the UK.


Mr Andrew Quaile, Consultant Spinal and Orthopaedic Surgeon and Medical Director of SpineWorks answers some common questions about how the back works, back pain myths and how discs in your back age overtime. 


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Video Transcript: The back explained

We tend to use a model like this, which is a plastic model and you can see quite clearly there’s a pelvis down here, there is disc and bone and disc and bone and these bones are numbered starting at number five then four, three, two, one and so on up the thoracic spine.  These discs here are put to allow movement but also to take the load so when you lift, shift, stoop and bend they act as shock absorbers. 


At the back of the spine there are joints called facet joints which you will notice on the right and left hand sides.  As the discs start to age and come down in height then more force is taken on these facet joints.  These facet joints should be covered by gristle like the chicken joint on a Barbeque should be beautifully smooth. 


Throughout life as this becomes rougher it will tend to stick or jam if it is held in the one position for a long period of time.  This occurs while lying in bed at night, sat in a car, a desk or a plane.  When they are moved by movement naturally they tend to lubricate as W40 starts to lubricate the surfaces and the symptoms improve.  So in terms of facet joints or discs, stillness or immobility is bad news, movement tends to be good news and these are the type of condition we treat on a very regular basis.