Are you worried that your back pain could be a sign of cancer?
Thankfully, this is only ever the case in very rare situations. It’s often not a primary concern, and the risk of your back pain being caused by anything scary is very small.
Remember that experiencing back pain is very common and 85-90% of back pain cases are non-specific. Non-specific lower back pain (NSLBP) is defined as lower back pain not attributable to a recognisable, known specific pathology (for example, spinal stenosis, disc herniation, infection, tumour, osteoporosis, fracture, structural deformity, inflammatory disorder).
With NSLBP, it usually just means that your back is a bit sensitised, and the natural history of the condition is that it usually resolves on its own without the need for treatment within the first few weeks.
Even if the back pain feels bad and distressing, it's not necessarily an indication that anything scary is going on. Back pain intensity is not a good indicator of back pain ominousness.
So, rest assured – it is rare that cancer is what's causing your back pain. However, if you’ve had cancer previously or have a history of cancer in your family and, in addition to this, you suffer from nightly pain or can’t pinpoint the onset of your back pain – it might also be a good idea to consult with your GP. This will help rule out any potential underlying issues.
Overall, and as aforementioned, back pain caused by cancer is extremely rare.
- Delitto (2012); Clinical practice guidelines linked to the international classification of functioning, disability, and health from the orthopaedic section of the American Physical Therapy Association
- Traeger (2017); Diagnosis and management of low-back pain in primary care
- Aikasinen (2006); Chapter 4. European guidelines for the management of chronic nonspecific low back pain
- Balaque: Lancet clinical review: Non-specific low back pain