Back Pain

Why do so many people suffer with back pain?

The spine supports the entire weight of the head and upper body, as well as protecting the spinal cord. Almost any body movement we make involves the back, even a simple turning of the head. Each time you take a step on a hard surface, the force transmitted through the spine is equal to roughly twice your body weight.

Back pain can be caused by something as simple as lifting a heavy object in an incorrect way, by standing or sitting in one position for a long period of time, or from over-stretching while playing sport. Bad posture, being overweight or sleeping on an old, sagging mattress can all contribute to back problems. It is estimated that as many as four out of five people will suffer from back pain at some point in their lives.

Does back pain mean that there is anything seriously wrong?

For most people, back pain is the result of strained muscles or ligaments. However, there can be other more serious causes such as arthritis, a slipped disc, or osteoporosis or kidney disease. If your back pain is severe or prolonged, you should consult your doctor.

How can I ease the pain?

Pain in any form is a warning and it is important to rest and avoid aggravating the problem. Cold packs or freezing sprays are often recommended for immediate relief of strained or pulled muscles. A hot water bottle or warm bath can also help to ease stiffness and improve mobility.

What about painkillers?

Back pain is often associated with inflammation so you may wish to choose a painkiller that also has an anti-inflammatory effect such as ibuprofen (contained in Nurofen). Ibuprofen will relieve both pain and inflammation.

When should a painkiller be taken?

As soon as you feel the first twinges of pain, you should take a painkiller. Delaying taking painkillers won’t make the pain go away.

What else should I know about taking painkillers?

Always read the label carefully, to ensure the product is suitable for your use and don’t take more than the recommended dose.

Remember that many medicines, especially cold and flu remedies may contain pain-relieving ingredients. So when using more than one type of product you should monitor your intake carefully.

You should not use ibuprofen if you have ever had a stomach ulcer, or are allergic to it or to aspirin. If you are allergic to or taking any other painkiller, pregnant, or suffer from asthma speak to your pharmacist or doctor before taking ibuprofen.

How can I avoid back pain?

The best way to avoid back pain is to adopt a good, upright posture. Try to stand, sit and walk as if you have a string attached to the crown of your head and it is being pulled taut. This will help you to raise your head, straighten your spine and relax your shoulders. Keeping to the normal weight for your height will also reduce the amount of strain on your spine.

At work or in the home, stand and sit with your spine straight. You may need to adjust your chair, desk or computer screen or use a different firmer armchair at home (soft sofas encourage slouching). Try bending your knees or kneeling instead of bending over, for example when checking low drawers in a filing cabinet or cleaning the bath.

To lift a heavy object, hold it close to the body and bend your knees and hips while keeping the spine straight. Do not twist your body when carrying or lifting a heavy load, use your feet to turn your whole body.

On average, you will spend over a third of your life in bed. It is therefore essential that your mattress supports your back properly while you are asleep. Try placing a hard board underneath the mattress to give some extra support. However, hard beds are not always the answer for all types of backache, so it may be useful to take advice from your doctor or osteopath.

When should I consult my doctor?

If you have any concerns regarding your injury, or are unsure, then you should consult your doctor. Medical advice should also be sought if you are in severe pain, or if your back pain lasts for more than a few days.