80% of the adult population in this country will have a significant episode of back pain in their life. Around 10% of the population have back pain at any one time.
It can come on quite suddenly, or over time, and can be caused by lifting or moving awkwardly. However, more often than not, acute back pain comes on without any specific injury to your back. The pain can come on suddenly, or over time and can range from a mild pain or ache to quite severe pain, which can be extremely distressing and can sometimes stop you carrying out your everyday activities.
You will often hear that the best thing you can do for back pain is to lie down and rest – just one of several back pain myths that you can find below;
Chronic back pain refers to pain that has not gone away after three months. Like acute back pain, it is usually caused by a strain or a sprain in the back – but the pain and distress can last for much longer and it can have a big impact on your day-to-day life. Chronic back pain can range from a mild pain or ache, to a more severe pain. This can depend on a variety of things, such as how happy you are at home or at work, if you are prone to depression or if you have had back pain before.
Chronic back pain usually requires treatment such as medication or physiotherapy. In most cases though, your back will heal itself. It is important that you keep active and continue as normal, but if your pain is severe and persistent then you should seek medical advice for diagnosis and the appropriate treatment.
Swollen muscles, joints or ligaments can also irritate the nerve causing sciatica.The sciatic nerve runs down through the back, into the buttock, down the back of the leg and round to the outside of the lower leg and foot.
When the nerve gets compressed or irritated, the brain interprets the pain as coming from the buttock or leg instead of the back, where the problem actually is. The pain is often a severe shooting pain, sometimes accompanied with pins and needles or numbness.
Nine out of 10 cases of sciatica will heal without any specialist treatment – and more than seven out of 10 patients will report improvement within four weeks.
Keeping active is very important, but it may often be necessary to take pain killers to allow you to do this.
You shouldn’t be afraid of masking the pain as much as possible, as keeping active will not do you any more harm.
Your GP will be able to recommend activities that will help you keep moving and stop your muscles getting tight and weak. It’s normal to feel some discomfort during recovery – but this is not harmful. However, if the pain persists, your GP may refer you to a specialist spinal team to help with your recovery.
In some cases, if sciatica goes on a long time (usually longer than 2-3 months), or is very severe, you may be offered an MRI scan. Depending on the result you may then be offered an injection or operation.
Big changes have been made to the way back pain is managed.
Through this website we are supporting the GPs in giving you the help you need to manage your own back. After all, back pain is so common, you’re likely to have episodes of acute pain on and off throughout your life.
Your GP will help guide your recovery and prevention of further back pain by using the right pain killers as needed, along with some good advice.
When you need extra help they can help you decide what’s best for you. Some of the treatment options are detailed in the information leaflet to the right which you can read and download. As this website is strictly non-promotional we do not recommend specific practitioners.
People who remain active have far better outcomes than those who don’t. If you are struggling with back pain:
Use pain killers to help you carry on – it’s the movement that will get you better, and the pain killers will allow you to move by masking the pain.
If you have to go off work sick use that time to get your back better – this might mean going out for walks, to the shops, etc. Don’t feel that just because you are off work you should not keep active – you must!
Stay in touch with your workplace. Hopefully your employer will be trying to keep in touch with you as well. Be open-minded about getting back to work as soon as possible. This can be facilitated by changes to your normal job role, hours and even where you work.
The longer you remain off work the more difficult it becomes to get back to work. The day an individual goes off sick (whatever the reason) they have about a 1% chance of still being off work a year later.
Once someone has been off work for six weeks they have a 20% chance of long term disability. This increases to 50% if they have been off for six months. People off work for a year are unlikely to work again for several years.
When you have back pain it is crucial for you to keep moving.
Movement is something you can do that contributes to your back getting better. Part of that process is allowing time for the body’s natural healing to occur and this will be much better if you continue to move, even if this causes some discomfort.
It will not do any harm – remember, the spine is designed to move.
Regular exercise is vital in keeping back pain at bay by toning your muscles, allowing your body to support your back much better.
People with good fitness levels tend to experience less back pain, so get out of the house and go walking, swimming or cycling for half an hour a day. Exercise classes such as yoga or pilates are also great for your back, and visiting the gym can also help.
Keeping active is also good for you if you’re already suffering from back pain. Even if exercising feels painful, it will not harm your back and keeping active is one of the best ways to allow your back to recover.
However, it is also important to take care when exercising, as a careless twist, bend or pull could strain your back and result in an episode of back pain