Cookie technology helps us bring you the best possible experience when you visit this website.
To find out more, read our cookie policy . I understand, close this message.



Acute or short-term back pain generally lasts from a few days to a few weeks. Most acute 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, if you find that it is 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 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.3

Although most back pain is acute and goes away after a few days or weeks, chronic back pain describes pain that lasts for at least 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.4

Your emotional well-being, ability to work and fulfilling your family role can all be affected by your back pain.3

We may think of back pain as something that only affects adults and the elderly, but that isn’t the case – back pain can affect all of us, even children. As many as 80% of us will experience an episode of back pain during our lifetime and it’s estimated that about 1 in 5 people are currently experiencing lower back pain that has lasted for more than 3 months at any time.5        

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.


If you have had back pain for more than 3 months, check the symptoms of your back pain here. The results can help you and your doctor understand if your back pain could be inflammatory.

Arthritis New Zealand


  1. Cohen SP, et al. Management of low back pain. BMJ. 2008;337:a2167
  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. 2015.
  4. Khan MA. 2002. Ankylosing spondylitis – the facts. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  5. Airaksinen O, et al. Chapter 4. European guidelines for the management of chronic nonspecific low back pain. Airaksinen Eur Spine J. 2006;15(Suppl. 2):S192–S300.