Most people manage to deal with most attacks by themselves. What you do depends on how bad your back feels. However, because there’s no serious damage, you can usually: -
Do not be afraid of simple painkillers. You should not hesitate to use them if you need them. You can safely reduce the pain in order to get and stay active. As we have seen, you are far more likely to do yourself harm by being in pain and unable to move than by taking a simple and safe easily-available painkiller to help reduce pain, help your muscles to relax and thereby get a better blood circulation and enable you to move more freely.
So long as you have no medical reason to avoid it, ibuprofen is both a painkiller and an anti-inflammatory and works especially well if taken with paracetamol. You may like to alternate one with the other throughout the day so as to avoid breath-through pain, perhaps take both together at night for a better night’s sleep.
Do not take ibuprofen or aspirin if you are pregnant, have indigestion or an ulcer, or are someone with asthma who has found these tablets make it worse.
Most doctors agree that manipulation by a qualified professional can help back pain. Osteopaths, chiropractors, a few physiotherapists and specially trained doctors can offer this. There are risks but they are small and the procedures are safe in good hands. You should feel benefit after a few sessions and it is not a good idea to have treatment for months on end.
Many treatments such as acupuncture, electrotherapy machines and alternative medicines are used for back pain and some people feel that they help. Being realistic, whilst these may help discomfort in the short term it is far more important that you get active, start some regular exercise and look at improving your posture long term.
To avoid back pain you must reduce excess stresses and strains on your back, and ensure your back is strong and supple.
The following advice also applies to those with persistent, recurring bouts of back pain:
Exercises like walking, swimming, yoga and stretching movements are especially good for those with back pain.
Back pain in secondary school age children has been linked to heavy schoolbags and backpacks as well as ill-fitting classroom seating. Nearly half of all teenagers in the UK have experienced occasional backache from carrying overloaded bags, poor posture and an unhealthy lifestyle.
Take care when carrying shopping bags, luggage, backpacks or any heavy loads. Try to distribute the weight evenly on both sides of your body and carry any heavy items close to your waist with the heaviest end nearest to you and look straight ahead.
When lifting, let your legs take the strain - bend your back, knees and hips slightly but don’t stoop or squat. Tighten your stomach muscles to pull your pelvis in. Don’t straighten your legs before lifting as you may strain your back on the way up.
Stand firm your feet should be apart with one leg slightly in front to hold your balance. Try not to lean to the side or twist your body. If you need to change direction then let your feet do the work.
Causes of back pain
Regular physical activity
Your spine is one of the strongest parts of your body. It is made of solid bony blocks joined by discs to give it strength and flexibility.
It is reinforced by strong ligaments and surrounded by large and powerful muscles that protect it. Most simple back strains do not cause any lasting damage.
Back pain is most commonly mechanical back pain, which is pain originating from muscles, ligaments and small facet joints when they are strained. This can follow injury, poor posture or inactivity.
Although uncommon, back pain can be caused by more serious conditions and you should seek urgent help from your doctor if you have any of the following: -
You should also consult a medical professional if you are aged < 20 or >55, or have: -
Despite what you may have heard only a few people with back pain have a slipped disc or a trapped nerve. Even when they do it will usually heal by itself. Very few back problems ever need surgery.
X-rays and MRI scans can detect serious spinal injuries, but they don’t usually help in ordinary back pain. They may even be misleading. Doctors sometimes mention ‘degeneration’ which sounds frightening, but it is not damage or arthritis. These are the normal changes with age, just like grey hair.
Most back pain comes from the working parts of your back – the muscles, ligaments and small joints. Your back is simply not moving and working as it should. You can think of it as being ‘out of condition’. What it needs is to get moving and working properly again which stimulates its natural ability to recover.
Back Pain is very common and causes a great deal of misery but, fortunately, serious or permanent damage is rare. There has been a revolution in thinking about back care and we now deal with it actively, using the best and most up-to-date evidence.
This Health Centre webpage sets out the facts and tells you what we know about how to get better as quickly as possible.
Rest for more than a few days means: -