Definition of Back Pain
Definitions of Back pain, also known as backache, is pain felt in the back. Common underlying mechanisms include degenerative or traumatic changes to the discs and facets joints, which can then cause secondary pain in the muscles, and nerves, and referred pain to the bones, joints and extremities.
Back pain is very common and usually improves within a few weeks or months.
Pain in the lower back (lumbago) is particularly common, although it can be felt anywhere along the spine, from the neck down to the hips.
In most cases the pain is not caused by anything serious and will usually get better over time.
There are things you can do to help relieve it. But sometimes the pain can last a long time or keep coming back.
How to relieve back pain
The following tips may help reduce your back pain and speed up your recovery:
- stay as active as possible and try to continue your daily activities – this is 1 of the most important things you can do, as resting for long periods is likely to make the pain worse
- try exercises and stretches for back pain; other activities such as walking, swimming, yoga and pilates may also be helpful
- take anti-inflammatory painkillers, such as ibuprofen – remember to check the medicine is safe for you to take and ask a pharmacist if you’re not sure
- use hot or cold compression packs for short-term relief – you can buy these from a pharmacy, or a hot water bottle or a bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a cloth or towel will work just as well
Although it can be difficult, it helps if you stay optimistic and recognize that your pain should get better. People who manage to stay positive despite their pain tend to recover quicker.
Getting help and advice
Back pain usually gets better on its own within a few weeks or months and you may not need to see a doctor or other healthcare professional.
But it’s a good idea to get help if:
- the pain does not start to improve within a few weeks
- the pain stops you doing your day-to-day activities
- the pain is very severe or gets worse over time
- you’re worried about the pain or struggling to cope
If you see a GP they will ask about your symptoms, examine your back and discuss possible treatments.
They may refer you to a specialist doctor or a physiotherapist for further help.
Alternatively, you may want to consider contacting a physiotherapist directly. Some NHS physiotherapists accept appointments without a doctor’s referral, or you could choose to pay for private treatment.