Back Pain

Back pain is common but most cases aren't caused by a serious problem.

Most cases of back pain get better on their own within a few weeks.

Stay active. Bed rest for more than a couple of days makes it harder to get going. Gradually increase your normal activities and do regular exercise.

Take painkillers if needed so you can stay active.

Your pain should ease within 2 weeks and you should recover over
approximately a 4–6 week period.

If the pain is severe or not improving after a week or so contact your doctor.


Sprains and strains

Back pain isn't usually a sign of a serious medical condition – it's much more likely that an awkward movement has pulled a muscle or sprained a ligament. Simple cases often improve within 4–6 weeks. Staying active and getting on with normal activities is one
of the best ways to deal with back pain, but you can take painkillers if you need to.

It's very important to exercise the affected muscle to improve its strength, although you should rest if the muscle is in spasm. Unless you're in severe pain you probably won't need to see a doctor.


Back pain is sometimes linked with pains in the leg which are called sciatica. It affects the sciatic nerve that runs from the spine to the leg. The pain is felt anywhere from the buttock to the big toe. Other symptoms include numbness and tingling in the legs and feet. Sciatica is caused by an irritation of the sciatic nerve – there's nothing wrong with the leg itself.

If you notice weakness of the muscles in your leg, especially if you can't pull your foot up towards you, or if you lose bladder or bowel control, you should see your doctor urgently.

The most commonly used treatments that physiotherapist can use include manual therapy and exercise. There is good evidence that these treatments are effective for the treating back pain, especially when the pain has lasted for a number of weeks. 

Exercise is an important element of most back pain programs and a physiotherapist can advise you what exercise to do.

There is also some evidence to support the use of massage and acupuncture for the treatment of back pain, although research in this area is ongoing to really find out when these treatments should be used.

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