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Back Pain

Low back pain is very common and very normal.

It is very much like the common cold, or a headache. There are lots of different factors that contribute to low back pain that can involve physical aspects, lifestyle aspects and mental aspects. For example, if we are a bit stressed, a bit run down, not sleeping well and not exercising enough but spending long periods sitting or bending and lifting then we can develop back pain.

The best approaches for helping low back pain often contrast with the thoughts of the general public, so hopefully this page will help debunk some of those myths and get you on the road to improving your symptoms.

What do we know?

  • Back pain is very common and normally gets better over a few days or weeks. 
  • Although the pain may last longer than a few weeks, or may come and go, this does not mean your back problem is serious 
  • Back pain is rarely due to serious disease or damage
  • Your spine is one of the strongest parts of your body and is surprisingly difficult to damage
  • It responds as any other joint would, think ankle sprain. We worry because we can’t see it like we can see an ankle though.
  • The amount of pain felt is not related to the amount of damage- think of a paper cut 
  • Scans correlate poorly with symptoms. Most people without low back pain have changes on scans and x-rays which do not cause any pain at all 
  • With the right information, support and treatment, most people can manage their own back pain
  • Maintaining and then gradually increasing your daily activity can help you to recover sooner. Return to movement and work as soon as possible improves recovery 
  • Exercise is the best treatment. And long term getting strong is key 

What can I do to help?

Pain relief: Simple painkillers (like paracetamol) or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, NSAIDS, (like ibuprofen) are available over the counter and can be very effective but don’t use them for more than 2 weeks without seeking medical advice. You should carefully read the Patient Information Leaflet that is provided with this medication. 

It is advisable to consult your GP or pharmacist before taking additional pain relief if you are currently:

·         taking any form of medication

·         have any other pre-existing medical conditions

·         pregnant

Exercise: Regular exercise and fitness helps us to keep the back fit and healthy. There is good evidence that any form of physical activity can help people with back pain. The best idea is to find an activity that you enjoy and will be more likely to continue in the long-term.

Keep moving: The best thing that you can do if you have an episode of back pain is to stay active. It is important to remember that the amount of pain does not correlate to the extent of damage. There is good evidence that staying at work or returning to work as soon as possible, even if this is on light duties, and returning to all usual activities is important in aiding recovery.

Avoid long periods of inactivity: Avoiding bed rest/long periods of inactivity (but not overdoing it) can help to prevent your symptoms getting worse.  Keeping the back moving with gentle exercises can help to manage the pain by preventing it from stiffening up. Changing position regularly can also help to manage the pain.

Physiotherapy: When you see the Physiotherapist they may discuss these points with you to find out what works best for you. They will also provide you with exercises depending on what is found during their assessment and which functional goals you are working towards.

Exercises to try:

seated flexions

Seated Flexion

Sitting on a chair or on the edge of your bed

Feet hip width apart

Place your hands on your legs and slowly slide your hands down towards your toes and back up again

Standing Extension

Standing Extension

Standing with your hands in the small of your back

Lean back into your hands, arching your back 

Return to starting position and repeat

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