Back Pain

What causes Back Pain?

Back pain is a very common problem, with reports suggesting as many as eight out of ten of us will suffer from it at some point during our lives. Around 5.6 million working days in the UK are lost each year due to back pain, second only to stress. Back pain is a ‘musculoskeletal disorder’ which also includes neck pain and repetitive strain injury (RSI), now known as Work Relevant Upper Limb Disorder (WRULD).

Back pain can affect anyone at any age, and can often be the result of a sprain or a strain of the structures of the back such as the muscles, ligaments, joints or damage to the discs. Osteoarthritis or wear and tear in the back can also be a reason.

Most of us know that back pain can be painful and inconvenient, but it’s not usually serious and will often resolve on its own within a few weeks. However, many people seek physiotherapy treatment to address it quickly and at a time and place of their own choice. Your physiotherapist is skilled at helping prevent back pain from becoming a chronic, long-term condition.


How can a physiotherapist help?

Physiotherapy works well for managing back pain. If you see a physiotherapist quickly, this can not only speed up recovery but also prevent the problem happening again.

Your physio will first check out if you have a serious health problem that may be connected to your back pain. They will then find the reason for your back pain and look at ways to help prevent further problems.

Your physio can offer a range of treatments that have proven to be effective with back pain. These include manual treatments, and possibly acupuncture. Your physio will also advise you on appropriate exercise and pain relief.

X-rays, scans and other tests are sometimes required to make a diagnosis and your physio may refer you to your GP or a specialist for any additional investigations or treatment.

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How can I help myself?

How you sit, stand, lie and lift can all affect the health of your back.

Try to avoid placing too much pressure on your back and ensure your back is strong and supple. Regular exercise, such as walking and swimming, is an excellent way of preventing back pain. Activities such as yoga or pilates can improve your flexibility and strengthen your back muscles.

Learning how to ‘pace’ yourself will help you to carry on with your usual activities. Pacing yourself means that you keep active without overusing joints.

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Top tips for Back Pain

  • Exercise and activity are the most important ways of helping yourself if you have back pain
  • Keep moving and continue with activities such as walking or swimming
  • Avoid sitting for too long when driving or at work
  • Gently stretch to prevent stiffness
  • Take care when lifting, bending your hips and knees to use the power in your legs
  • Check your posture when using computers/games or watching television
  • Check the mattress on your bed to ensure it supports you properly
  • Strengthen your trunk muscles as this may help to protect your back
  • Make sure your car seat and office chair are adjusted correctly and support your back
  • Eat a healthy diet and exercise, as being overweight can be a cause of back pain


More information on Back Pain

Back Care – UK charity for back and neck pain
Arthritis Research UK – Back pain education and information
NHS Choices – Comprehensive information on back pain


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