Non-specific lower back pain… what is it???

Non-specific lower back pain is the most common type of back pain, with 19 in

20 cases of acute (sudden onset) low back pain being classed as ‘non-specific’.1


It is called 'non-specific' because it is not clear what is actually causing the pain.

In other words, it is pain that is not attributed to a recognised or specific

problem (e.g. infection, disc pathology, osteoporosis or structural

deformity of the lumbar spine).2


This is the type of back pain that most people will have at some point in their life,

‘most’ being a whopping 84% of the population.


Episodes of acute non-specific back pain usually have a good prognosis, with

rapid improvement within the first 6 weeks.3 After this period the improvement

slows, and over 40% of patients may develop chronic back pain.4


About one-third of patients who initially recover suffer episodes of recurrence

in the next year. 5


Osteopathy is known to be beneficial in the treatment of non-specific low back

pain.  Through the use of gentle manual techniques and exercise, osteopathy has

been shown to provide relief from pain both immediately and long term. 6 , 7 , 8





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1 Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust. “Lower back pain (non specific). Emergance

department patient information

2 Balagué, Federico, Anne F. Mannion, Ferran Pellisé, and Christine Cedraschi. "Non-specific low back pain." The lancet379, no. 9814 (2012): 482-491.

3 da Costa LMC, Maher CG, Hancock MJ, et al. The prognosis of acute and persistent low-back pain: a meta-analysis. CMAJ 2012; 184: E613-E624.

4 da Costa LMC, Maher CG, McAuley JH, et al. Prognosis for patients with chronic low back pain: inception cohort study. BMJ 2009; 339: b3829.

5 Stanton TR, Henschke N, Maher CG, et al. After an episode of acute low back pain, recurrence is unpredictable and not as common as previously thought. Spine 2008; 33: 2923-2928.

6 Balthazard, Pierre, Pierre de Goumoens, Gilles Rivier, Philippe Demeulenaere, Pierluigi

Ballabeni, and Olivier Dériaz. "Manual therapy followed by specific active exercises versus a

placebo followed by specific active exercises on the improvement of functional disability in

patients with chronic non specific low back pain: a randomized controlled trial." BMC

musculoskeletal disorders 13, no. 1 (2012): 162.

7 Hidalgo, Benjamin, Christine Detrembleur, Toby Hall, Philippe Mahaudens, and Henri

Nielens. "The efficacy of manual therapy and exercise for different stages of non-specific low

back pain: an update of systematic reviews." Journal of Manual & Manipulative Therapy 22, no. 2 (2014): 59-74.

8 Almeida, Matheus, Bruno Saragiotto, Bethan Richards, and Chris G. Maher. "Primary care

management of non‐specific low back pain: key messages from recent clinical

guidelines." Medical Journal of Australia 208, no. 6 (2018): 272-275.

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