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    Back pain causes 13 million working days to be lost in Britain each year. The spine is made up of 24 bones (vertebrae) and associated cartilage and tendons. It supports the whole weight of the upper body and it therefore experiences quite a strain. Quite often it is difficult to precisely identify the source of the pain in the back. Sometimes the pain moves down the low back into the buttocks and back of the legs and this is called sciatica.

    What Can You Do?

    If the pain has been caused by a specific event e.g. lifting a heavy object, be sensible and take things easy. Avoid bed-rest and continue normal light activity as it helps recovery and does not damage your back further.

    Take care to sit as upright as possible with a support for the small of the back.

    Take paracetamol, aspirin or ibuprofen for pain relief. The latter two medicines will also help reduce inflammation.

    Use heat (hot water bottle or heat pad), simple massage or ice packs to the back to help ease the pain.

    Your doctor may well prescribe stronger drugs or refer you for physiotherapy on the NHS or privately if you prefer. Private physiotherapy is available at the Private Clinic at Riverside Health Centre.

    Backache in Pregnancy

    It’s quite common to get backache in pregnancy. If you’re pregnant, you may not want to take painkillers, but there are other ways of easing the discomfort.

    Read more about back pain in pregnancy.

    When To Consult Your Doctor

    Most cases of back pain get better on their own and you do not need to see a doctor.
    However, you should visit your GP if you are worried about your back or you are finding it difficult to cope with the pain.
    Read more about how back pain is diagnosed.

    You should see immediate medical help if your back pain is accompanied by:

    • fever of 38ºC (100.4ºF) or above
    • unexplained weight loss
    • swelling in the back
    • constant back pain that doesn’t ease after lying down
    • pain in the chest or high up in your back
    • pain down your legs and below the knees
    • loss of bladder or bowel control
    • inability to pass urine
    • numbness around your genitals, buttocks or back passage
    • pain that is worse at night

    These are known as ‘red flag symptoms’ and could be a sign of something more serious.


    Back Pain Guide