What is it and how can I treat it?
Back pain is a common problem, which affects 4 out of 5 of us at some point. It’s often caused by a simple muscle, tendon or ligament strain and not usually by a serious problem. Back pain can be acute, where the pain starts quickly but then reduces after a few days or weeks, or chronic, where pain might last on and off for several weeks or even months and years.
The backbone, or spinal column, is one of the strongest parts of the body and provides us with remarkable flexibility and strength. It’s made up of 24 bones (vertebrae), one sitting on top of the other with discs in between and lots of strong ligaments and muscles around them for support.
Simple painkillers such as paracetamol (an analgesic) and ibuprofen may help. You should use them as and when you need them. Don’t use painkillers for more than 2 weeks without seeking medical advice.
Exercise is the most important way that you can help yourself if you experience back pain. Exercise might make your back feel a bit sore at first but it doesn’t cause any harm. Start off slowly and gradually increase the amount of exercise you do. Over time, your back will get stronger and more flexible and this should reduce pain.
You should see your doctor if your pain:
- is very severe or lasts for a long period of time
- affects your everyday activities.
Very rarely, back pain can indicate a more serious problem. See your doctor immediately if you:
- have difficulty controlling or passing urine
- lose control of your bowels
- have numbness around your back passage or your genitals
For more information on back pain visit www.nhs.uk