Back Pain

Back Pain

Pain Relief for Back Pain

Key facts

-     94% of pain experienced also relates to back pain

-     1 in 3 people suffer from back pain each year

-     Back pain is the leading cause of disability in the UK

-     Back pain costs the NHS £1.37 billion each year

Overview

With one in three people suffering from it every year; back pain is one of the most common areas of pain and reasons to visit the doctor or have time off work, but can usually be treated and improved within a few weeks. The most common form of back pain is in the lower back (lumbago) but the pain can also be present anywhere along the spine or nerve system in the back, from your neck to your tail bone.

In most cases, back pain doesn’t have a serious cause and can be relieved quickly, but in some cases chronic back pain can cause serious problems and needs specialist medical treatment and/or long term pain relief medication. These pains can arise from lifting or carry heavy objects, overuse, sports injuries or accidents. Back pain becomes chronic when it lasts 3 months or more and may require the use of pain relief medication to help with pain and symptoms

Common symptoms

Shooting, sharp or stabbing pain in the upper/lower back or neck
Stiffness anywhere along the spine from base of the neck to tailbone
Dull aching sensation
Pain that radiates down the leg
Increased pain or discomfort when standing, walking, lifting or bending

Rare symptoms - seek immediate medical advice

Numbness or tingling in one or both legs
Loss of bowel or bladder control
Unexplained weight loss
Throbbing sensation in abdomen
Intense, constant pain that increases at night
High temperature
The pain started after an accident

Causes of back pain

In many cases it is not possible to identify the root cause of back pain and is rarely caused by anything sinister so will therefore be referred by a doctor as ‘non-specific’. Below are a list of possible causes for mild to severe back pain:

Lower back
Muscle (spasm, strain or tearing)
Ligament (strain, tearing)
Nerve (damage, trap, movement)
Vertibrae - (fracture, break or dislodge)

Medical conditions resulting in back pain

sciatica: compression of the spinal nerve resulting in pain the back, hip and outer leg lasting 4-6 weeks on average.

Slipped (prolapsed) disc: the soft cushion of tissue (spinal disc) becoming dislodged between two bones, pressing on a nearby nerve.

Or in very rare cases, these causes are classed as medical emergencies and need immediate medical attention:

Spinal Stenosis: Narrowing of the spinal canal
Degenerative spondylolisthesis: A spinal vertebrae displacing onto another Fungal or bacterial infection of the spine such as Tuberculosis or E.coli
Cauda equine Syndrome: Loss of nerve function at the lower spinal chord

Tumour: Cancerous or. Nonmalignant tumour on the spine

How to relieve or treat back pain

  • Majority of back pain episodes can be relieved with these simple steps: 
  • Gentle, specific back exercises and stretches and activities such as swimming, yoga or pilates.
  • Hot or cold compresses for short term relief
  • Anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen or naproxen
  • Physical therapies such as: Chiropractor, osteopath or acupuncture treatment (discuss with your doctor first)

For serious or chronic back pain:

  • Muscle relaxants to relieve intense spasms from acute injuries 
  • Short term opioids such as Co-codamol.

Getting help or advice

Most back pain is short term and should get better by itself within a few weeks, meaning you may not need to see a doctor but we recommend getting professional medical advice and help if:

-     The pain doesn’t improve within 4-6 weeks

-     The pain is becoming worse over time

-     You are unable to do day to day activities or simple movements

-     You are unable to cope or are worried

Your GP should talk you through your symptoms, examine the problem areas and discuss your treatment options if needed. If your back pain feels worse than usual, we recommend talking to your GP or calling NHS 111 immediately.



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