Why does my back hurt?
Your back is incredibly strong and robust. It is the strongest part of your body and is very good at doing the things it is designed to do such as bending, lifting and twisting. Back complaints are very common and can be concerning if they are very painful. However, a back complaint is rarely due to anything serious.
Will I get better?
In most cases things will get better within approximately 4 to 6 weeks. If things have been going on for a long time it is less likely for pain to go fully but can often be managed better. But remember, serious injury is very rare and the outlook is good.
What can I do to help myself?
Trust your back. Your back can be sore but safe to use. Being worried or scared about moving your back can actually make it hurt more. Making some adjustments to what you do whilst your back is sore is a good idea. This might mean taking a few more breaks or changing how you do something. It is normal to feel some discomfort when you first get moving but this does not mean you are causing damage.
For most back complaints, movement is the most effective approach. There is generally no one specific type of exercise that is better than anything else. The key is to find somthing that you enjoy performing or willing to continue on with on a regular basis. Moving normally, including bending is the best medicine for your back.
What about an x-ray or scan?
In most cases, having an x-ray is not useful in helping your back get better. Of course, in certain situations they are important and necessary, but often the results will show you things that are meant to be there or normal for the age of your back. That might mean that in a number of cases, what the x-ray shows is not really necessarily related to why your back is sore. This is likely to be why your GP or physio may have said that it is not be needed to help with diagnosis and treatment.
What else can I do?
Stress and worry make our back muscles tighter which can increase pain and delay recovery. Recognising and addressing stress or worry can really help to manage pain.
Should I use pain killers?
Many people manage their back complaint well without using medication, however sometimes pain relief may help you keep moving normally. Your pharmacist or GP can advise you on safe pain relief.
What about work?
Staying at work is good for your back and will help your recovery in the long term. It is not a good idea to wait for the pain to get better before getting back to work. Maintaining a normal lifestyle as much as possible has been shown to help people recover quicker from an episode of back pain. If appropriate you may wish to discuss with your employer about temporarily reducing your hours or duties at work.
I still feel that I need some help.
If your back pain is causing you issues that you feel you would like to discuss with someone, you can be referred to the physiotherapy service by your GP. Your local pharmacist will also be able to provide you with information regarding any appropriate use of over the counter medication.
Top exercise ideas
Here is a selection of exercises that are most useful for helping low back complaints. Click on the arrows to show the start and finish of each excercise.
Lean yourself backwards and continue to breathe normally.
On the bed. With your knees together, roll them to one side as far as is comfortable and repeat to the other side.