Back pain, although not usually a sign of a more serious condition, can be very disruptive to your daily routine. In the majority of cases, acute back pain will improve after a couple of weeks or months. However, in a few cases the back pain becomes chronic or it returns with regular intervals.

Causes of Back Pain

The most common form of back pain is lower back pain, also called lumbago. Lower back pain can often be felt all along the spine. This type of back pain is most often cased by bad posture or by putting too much strain on the muscles by bending or lifting incorrectly. Lower back pain can also be caused by more specific injuries and diseases such as:

Sciatica: A condition where the sciatic nerve becomes compressed, causing pain, numbness and tingling down the leg.

A slipped disc: A condition where one of the discs in the spine has been damaged and is pressing on the nerve. 

Ankylosing spondylitis:  A form of arthritis which causes inflammation of the spine (The word spondylitis means inflammation of the spine. The word ankylosing means bones that are fused or joined together).

Treating Back Pain

Back pain will usually get better on it's own. However, there are things you can do to speed up recovery and to relieve the symptoms.

Keep active: It's important to keep as active as possible when you have back pain. Bed rest will not help your recovery. In fact people who remain active will recover quicker.

Painkillers: In order to keep active you may need to take painkillers. Paracetamol is usually the first choice. However, other painkillers such as Ibuprofen also have anti inflammatory elements, which some people find more effective.

Hot and Cold: Experiment with hot and cold compressions. A hot bath or heat pad can be used to soothe and ease the pain. Cold compressions can be made up of ice packs or frozen peas. Cold will relieve the pain as well as bring down any inflammation.

Sleeping positions: Relief from back pain can sometimes be found by sleeping in a different position to what you normally would. Experiment with pillows as support. Having a pillow or rolled up blanket under your knees will help maintain the normal curve of the spine. 

Stay positive: The way you think and feel can be one of the deciding factors to how easily and quickly you recover from back pain. Read more about the psychological aspect of back pain here >

Massage: Massage using various different techniques will relax the muscles and ease tension as well as improve overall mood. This can reduce the need for painkillers and speed up recovery. Acupuncture and other manual therapies can also be of help.

For an informative article on non-surgical treatments for slipped disc and back pain, written by a team of health care professionals, scientists and editors, and reviewed by external experts. click here>

It's important to see your GP if you are worried about you back pain or if it doesn't improve after 6 weeks. If your back pain is accompanied by a high fever, swelling, chest pains, loss of bladder or bowel control, numbness around the buttocks area or if the pain started after an accident you should see your GP urgently as it may be a sign of something more serious.

Preventing Back Pain

Having a strong and supple back is the best way to prevent back pain from occurring. There are several steps you can take to keep your back healthy.

Exercise: Exercises which focus on building up strength in the muscles of the back. Swimming, walking and weight exercises will all achieve this goal. 

Loose Weight: Carrying a lot of weight puts extra strain on your back, making you more likely to suffer from back pain. Exercise is the best way to loose weight and strengthen back muscles simultaneously.

Avoid high heels: Wearing high heels for long periods of time can put a lot of pressure on the back. Try keeping the times you wear heels to a minimum.

Stay calm: Stress and anxiety can have a big effect on back pain. How you think and feel can even cause or worsen back pain. Read more about how your feelings affect back pain here >