It is normal to have back pain. 80% of people tend to have an episode of back pain at some point in their life. Just because you have back pain once does not mean you will always have back pain. It can be concerning to you when it is very painful and affecting your everyday activity. However, a back complaint is rarely due to anything serious.
Your back is one of the strongest parts of your body and is very resilient. It is designed to cope with lots of activity such as bending, lifting, and twisting. Your lower back pain will usually gradually get better by itself within 2-3 months. Sometimes back pain can continue for longer periods of time, but there are ways you can help yourself.
How Can I Help Myself?
Keeping moving normally and being active helps to reduce pain and speed up recovery. The advice that used to be given was to fully rest. We now know the opposite is true and keeping moving is very important. Bed rest or avoiding twisting/bending will make your back more sensitive and more painful in the long term. It is natural to feel some discomfort when you first start getting active. It does not mean you are causing any damage.
- Try to reduce the load rather than avoiding lifting.
- Take more breaks, do ‘little and often’.
- Modify your activity slightly.
- Take your usual medication for pain relief, or ask your Pharmacist/GP for advice.
What Exercise Can I Do?
There is no specific type of exercise that is better than another. Simply keeping active is the best way to help yourself.
There are some examples of exercises to do below. You can use our symptom tracker to check if what you are doing is helping you to improve.
Should I Keep Working?
It is important to maintain normal activity and routine, including going to work, to help a speedier recovery. However, in some situations it may be necessary to modify working hours, or duties, for a short period of time in order for you to continue to work. You may want to discuss this with your employer.
Will Improving my Posture Help?
Posture and pain are not well related to one another. Large research studies have been unable to define what ‘good posture’ is. We also know that people with all postures get pain. People with all postures recover from pain.
What is related to pain is sustained periods of time spent in any one particular posture. A good rule of thumb is that ‘your best posture is your next posture’. Move around! Sit up, slouch, cross legs stand, bend forwards, arch backwards… and do all of these for short periods before moving onto another position. No position or posture is either good or bad.
Would an X-Ray or Scan Help?
X-rays and scans can help for a small number of people and in certain situations. However, most of the time it shows us things that are normal for the age of your back and are not related to your pain. These sorts of findings will not help the back get better. This is why your GP or clinician may say that it is not needed.
I’m Still Very Anxious/Worried
Lower back pain can sometimes make us feel anxious or worried and this can contribute to making the pain feel worse. In the majority of cases back pain is not caused by something dangerous, or long lasting.
Managing stress or worry can really help to improve pain and speed up your recovery. You can visit our Health & Wellbeing page for support with your emotional wellbeing. If you want further help with stress/anxiety or worry, your GP or Clinician can tell you about services available to give you some support.
What Can I Do if my Back Pain is Repeating?
If you start to notice a pattern of recurrent episodes, then it would be beneficial considering your common triggers. Look at ways to reduce their effect by building strength and resilience in these positions. This could be done by improving muscle strength or flexibility.
We also know that periods of stress can lead to worsening back pain. Such as when we are emotional and have a reduced quality of sleep. It would be worth looking at your lifestyle and what other stresses you have in your life because this can contribute to your pain. This awareness will help you to improve your pain and seek appropriate help.
Should I Self Refer?
Occasionally you may need some extra help to get your lower back pain better.
If you feel you would like to talk to a healthcare professional to help you further with your back you can fill in a self referral form.