Back pain

Back pain is a common problem that affects most people at some point in their life. It may be triggered by bad posture while sitting or standing, bending awkwardly, or lifting incorrectly. It’s not generally caused by a serious condition. In most cases, back pain will improve in a few weeks or months, although some people experience long-term pain or pain that keeps coming back.

Types of back pain

Backache is most common in the lower back (‘lumbago’), although it can be felt anywhere along your spine, from your neck down to your hips. Sometimes, back pain can be caused by an injury or disease, such as:

  • a slipped disc – when one of the discs in the spine is damaged and presses on the nerves
  • sciatica – irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve, which causes pain, numbness and tingling that travels down one leg
  • whiplash – neck injury caused by a sudden impact
  • frozen shoulder – inflammation around the shoulder that causes pain and stiffness
  • ankylosing spondylitis – a long-term condition that causes pain and stiffness where the spine meets the pelvis

The rest of this information will focus on back pain that doesn’t have an obvious cause. We call this “non-specific mechanical back pain”.

What to do

Most cases of back pain get better on their own and you may not need to see a doctor. If you’ve only had back pain for a few days or weeks, the following advice may help relieve your symptoms and speed up your recovery:

  • remain as active as possible and try to continue with your daily activities
    take over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen if you feel you need to
  • use hot or cold compression packs – you can buy these from your local pharmacy, or a bag of frozen vegetables and a hot water bottle will work just as well
  • Although it can be difficult to be cheerful or optimistic if you are in pain, it’s important to stay positive because this can help you recover faster.

Signs of a serious problem

You should seek urgent medical help if you have back pain and:

  • a high temperature (fever)
  • unexplained weight loss
  • a swelling or a deformity in your back
  • it’s constant and doesn’t ease after lying down
  • pain in your chest
  • a loss of bladder or bowel control
  • an inability to pass urine
  • numbness around your genitals, buttocks or back passage
  • it’s worse at night
  • it started after an accident, such as after a car accident

These problems could be a sign of something more serious and need to be assessed as soon as possible.

Treatments for long term back pain

If you’re worried about your back or your pain hasn’t improved in a week or two, it’s a good idea to visit your GP or one of our physiotherapists, who can advise you about the treatments available. These include:

Massage

Various hands on treatment techniques that can help with pain, stiffness and function.     Read More

Manipulation

This has demonstrated to be effective in the management of pain, stiffness and function. Read More

Acupuncture

Recent research supports the effectiveness of acupuncture in the management of pain.

Read More

Electrotherapy

A treatment method that may reduce pain and increase muscle strength and endurance. Read more

Exercise

Exercise has been clinically proven to help manage many issues within the body

Read More

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