Every year, one in three of us will get some form of back pain, particularly the lower back. In the majority of cases, you will be able to manage this yourself with over-the-counter painkillers and by keeping mobile and exercising the affected area.
It can last for anything from a few days or weeks, or continue for many months or in some cases even years. Back pain can influence your mood, your normal daily activities, your regular sleep patterns, and your ability to carry out your work.
If you are experiencing lower back pain, you will likely have tension, soreness and or stiffness in and around the affected area. You may also feel some pain in the front or back of your upper legs. For most people, this is “non-specific back pain”, meaning it is not caused by another health problem such as damage to your spine or a more serious pathological problem.
Five top tips
1. Stay active
A big risk factor for prolonging back pain is a reduction in your activity levels. This may be gradual or enforced due to work and lifestyle changes that you may have no control over. However, reducing your general activity levels equals a higher risk of your body’s tissues becoming less flexible, of oxygen not being able to flow freely to aid your body’s natural recovery and of muscles being used less often.
Keep active and moving when you have back pain, gentle exercise, as your pain allows, will help to prevent stiffness. We would suggest you start with non or low impact exercise such as swimming or the cross trainer, even increasing your walking tolerance can be a good starting point.
But remember short duration to start with and build it up slowly especially if you have not done it for a while. It is normal to get a more aches and pains the day after, but these should settle by the next day. This gives you an easy way of monitoring how much you should do.
2. Take Medicine
You may wish to consider the use of pain killers in order to reduce your pain levels so that you are able to keep gently active. A safe first option for most people is to try regular paracetamol (provided you have taken before and are not aware of any reasons why you should not take them). If paracetamol proves insufficient, you may wish to consider combining these with a low dose of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NASIDs) such as ibuprofen.
These have a number of potential side effects and possible interactions with other drugs you may be taking we would therefore recommend that you always discuss this first with your pharmacist, treating health professional or GP).
3. Good postural habits
Always try to maintain good posture, especially whilst sitting at work, avoid slouching in your chair and hunching over your desk or computer screen. Always use a chair with a backrest and ensure that your feet are flat on the floor or on a footrest. Don’t forget to also change your sitting position regularly and get up, stretch and move around at least every 30mins. If you feel that your back pain is work- related, then talk to your employer and/or your HR department. They will be able to make adaptations to your work environment to help you better manage your symptoms.
4. Get Stronger!!
There are many stretches and strengthening exercises you can do for your back pain. Ideally, these should be individual to your specific problem.
Research into low back pain recognises that improving your general wellbeing, eating habits and cardiovascular fitness are all important elements to your recovery. But also, research and our own experience informs us that improving the strength of your abdominal and back muscles can be very effective at reducing your pain.
Strengthening these muscles will get you more active and importantly prevent reoccurrences of your back pain in the future.
5. Do not worry, stay positive
Most non-specific back pain will settle down, usually in around four to six weeks. Be realistic in terms of setting yourself achievable goals for your recovery to help build your confidence.
Avoid trawling the Internet for comparative cases, you will not find the correct outcome and will more often than not end up making things worse.
We hope that the points above will help you to better manage your back pain and get well on the road to recovery.
If you have concerns, please seek professional advice from one of our specialists at Chiropractic & Physiotherapy Health Centre.