Backache is a common problem but very rarely due to serious disease. Most people with backache have not damaged their spine - back pain usually comes from the muscles, ligaments and joints not moving as they should. Most episodes of back pain are painful to start with but settle quickly (within 4 weeks).
What can you do if you have back pain?
Continue with your normal light activities; this helps recovery and will not further damage your back. You should avoid bed rest as it can delay full recovery.
Specific exercises will only be prescribed for some people if their backache is not improving; this would be done by a doctor or physiotherapist after an assessment. Remember, it will take some time for the aches or discomfort to go completely.
If you work, either stay at work or go back as soon as possible. Take care, though, to avoid bad posture, heavy lifting or repetitive movements. These can lead to back pain. There might be simple ways to change the way you do your job.
• Try to use a hard chair so you are in an upright position.
• Support the base of your back with a rolled up towel (lumbar roll).
• Make sure your feet are flat on the floor or on a foot rest.
• Stand tall with your bottom and tummy tucked in
• Avoid prolonged bending forward (when washing up or cleaning teeth, for example)
Tell your employer you have back pain. Employers have a legal duty to safeguard your health. They should identify tasks which can cause problems and take steps to help.
The importance of posture
Good posture during everyday activities is important in overcoming back pain and preventing future attacks. Try to avoid remaining in the same position for a long time. Frequent changes of position may help to ease the pain.
When should you see your GP?
In most cases of back pain, X-rays and blood tests are not necessary. You should consult your GP if strong pain killers are required or the pain persists longer than a week and is not starting to improve. You should consult your GP urgently if you start to have difficulty passing urine; there is any numbness around your back passage or genitals; or numbness, pins and needles or weakness occurs in both legs.
Attacks of back pain can be extremely painful. This does not mean there is any long-term damage. Painkillers may not remove the pain completely but should control it enough for you to start moving about.
Regular paracetamol, aspirin or anti inflammatories (such as ibuprofen) can be effective for backache. Use of heat (hot water bottles, heat pads), simple massage or ice packs can ease the pain in some patients.
Prepare yourself before lifting. Be aware of the weight of the object and get somebody to help if it is too heavy
• Stand close to the load; your feet should be apart
• Bend hips and knees, keeping your back straight
• Straighten your legs
• To turn, move your feet; avoid twisting your back
• To place the load down, bend your knees keeping your back straight
• For back pain sufferers, it is better to be a passenger
• Adjust your seat so that your hips and knees are slightly bent
• Try to use a roll to support the base of your back
• On long journeys, stop regularly and walk around to ease your back
• Beds should be firm to support your spine
• Lumbar support may be increased by placing pillows between/underneath your knees
• To rise from lying, roll onto your side, swing your feet over the edge of the bed and push up to sitting using your arms.
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