Back pain isn’t always 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.
Exercise is the most important way that you can:
If your back pain lasts a while, lack of movement can cause the muscles to become weak. It’s important that you don’t rest for too long and keep moving.
Painkillers like paracetamol and ibuprofen may help and you should use them if you need to. Take them regularly and at the recommended dose to help you control pain and allow you to continue exercising. Don’t wait until your pain is severe before taking painkillers.
You shouldn’t take ibuprofen or aspirin if you’re pregnant or have asthma, indigestion or an ulcer until you’ve spoken to your doctor or pharmacist. Medication can have side-effects so you should read the label carefully and check if you have any queries.
If your back pain is affecting your activity and is persisting, ask your GP about referral to a physiotherapist. Premier has physiotherapists in your area.
Premier physiotherapists can provide a variety of treatments, help you understand your problem, get you back to your normal activities and give advice on how you can prevent symptoms returning in the future.