Low back pain is a very common problem in adults.
It is the leading cause of time off work and it is thought that up to 80% of us will suffer from low back pain at some point in our lives.
The most common cause of low back pain is what we call “mechanical”, in other words it is related to poor lifting, poor posture and minor strains on the ligaments, muscles and joints that make up the lower back.
Most causes of low back pain are not serious and will settle quickly with simple measures.
There are a few things you can do (and not do!) to avoid getting low back pain:
- avoid bending your back when lifting – keeping your back straight and bending your knees is a much safer way to lift something when you need to
- Make sure your posture at work, or when sitting at home is correct. You should aim to sit upright and avoid slouching or bending for long periods
- Keep active! The best way to keep your back healthy is by keeping the muscles in your back strong and healthy. Nothing excessive, just some brisk walking or swimming a few times a week is a good start
The number one thing is to keep active. Try to avoid bed rest for more than a day or two at most. Resting just makes everything more stiff and painful in your back. A hot water bottle or a bag of ice wrapped in a towel will provide some instant pain relief, but don’t use either for more than 10-20 minutes at a time.
Simple over-the-counter painkillers can be used to reduce the pain and help you to get active. Ask your pharmacist for advice.
If you have lower back pain and live in Tower Hamlets you can now self refer to physiotherapy. Mile End hospital offers free NHS appointments for advice and treatment of low back pain, with no need to see your Doctor first.
See your GP if:
- the back pain persists longer than six weeks
- there is any numbness or pain in your legs
- you have any problems holding on to your urine or stools, or numbness around the genital area
- you are unwell generally or have any other symptoms or medical conditions along with the back pain
- you have lost weight without trying to
- your pain started after an accident or trauma
- you have any other concerns about your symptoms
A&E is not the best place for chronic low back pain to be treated.