Back Pain Sunderland

BACK PAIN

8 out of 10 people in Sunderland and in the UK will suffer from Back Pain at some time in their lives. 

There are many causes of back pain affecting us regardless of age. These causes include injury, sprains or strains to muscles, ligaments and joints or discs in the back. Whilst this can be very painful and inconvenient it is reassuring to know that most people’s back pain will settle down fully and will not be a long-term serious problem.

We often describe back pain as an acute or chronic problem, depending on how long a person has suffered from the pain. Acute pain is shorter lived and much more common. We describe a patient as suffering “chronic” back pain if they have suffered from it for more than 3 months. 

Managing acuteback pain at its onset prevents people from developing chronic back pain. 

It is common for people to experience back pain on one or both sides of their backs, whilst  commonly feeling it around their hips, buttocks and occasionally into one or both thighs. However, with reassuring advice most people will see a great improvement in their back pain within two weeks.

Chronic back pain may require treatments such as medication and /or physiotherapy.

In most cases people suffering back pain will not need to see a physiotherapist and by keeping active and using over the counter painkillers their problem will settle without needing to see any specialists. For those few of us in whom pain is severe and persists then they should seek medical advice for further treatment.

Managing Back Pain

Acute back pain is usually short-lived, and most people will see a huge improvement in their back pain by doing the following: 

  • Taking regular pain relief like paracetamol, to allow you to move normally. 
  • Taking anti-inflammatory tablets like ibuprofen as well if needed (discuss with your pharmacist). 
  • Continuing with your day-to-day life as much as possible. 
  • Making sure you get a good balance of rest and activity.

If you are not starting to notice an improvement in pain after 1 week, or your pain is severe you should contact your GP. Pain does NOT mean you are causing any harm, your back may be painful as you move back to health. Most episodes of back pain will start to improve within 6 weeks, without any serious cause. There is more information in our patient information leaflet, which you can access by clicking on the links to the right (if accessing on a computer) or below (If using a mobile phone).

Warning signs

Very rarely, nerves in the back can become compressed and this could occur to the part of the spinal that controls bowel and bladder function. Therefore If you suffer from any of the symptoms below, please refer to the patient information leaflet – click here.

  • Loss or decreased sensation between the legs, around the anus or genitalia.
  • Inability to control your urine or bowels (incontinence).
  • Inability to pass urine or to get an erection.
  • Pain developing into both legs.
  • Progressive weakness in the legs.

 Information explaining warning signs to watch out for are in other languages via this link.

Keep Active

When you have back pain it is essential that you keep moving. By becoming less active, our bodies tend to become stiffer and muscles become tighter, this will then worsen the problem even further. Therefore, being active can help our back to get better. 

Movement is something you can do to help yourself get better. Part of that process is allowing time for the body’s natural healing to occur. This will be much better if you continue to move. Even if this causes some discomfort, KEEP MOVING! You will not cause any harm to your back.

It is normal in the early stages of back pain to do less, but this does NOT mean you have to stop. It is acceptable to reduce the intensity or duration of your daily activities, whether this is pacing housework by spreading it over multiple days or  asking line managers or colleagues, at work, for some assistance.

As your symptoms  start to improve, you can then increase your activity levels again and return to hobbies or more challenging activities.

Analgesia

The use of medication can be very beneficial in managing and easing back pain. It is a very common myth that pain relief will only ‘mask’ the pain and could cause me to ‘damage’ my back without knowing.

Use of regular pain relief can be an important aspect of managing back pain, as it can help to reduce the severity of your pain, allowing you to move more naturally and help you to regain normal function more quickly. Without adequate pain relief we tend to avoid natural movements, which can slow healing.

Exercise

Exercise is a very important part of maintaining general physical and mental well-being. An individual’s fitness levels will determine the intensity of exercise that is most suitable. However, a good guide is anything that causes a light sweat or enables you to talk whilst exercising but not sing.

For some people this could be something such as going for a walk, housework, gym or even running. Typically, we would encourage a combination of aerobic activity, such as swimming, running, cycling, and strength-based exercises such as the gym, pilates or yoga.

This helps us to maintain good strength throughout the body and a good level of conditioning enabling us to perform our daily routines to our best. 

For further advice on exercises for back pain – please follow the link below:

Excercises for lower back

Once the basic exercises (attached L1 and L2) are tolerated and able to be performed please progress to the Back Class Exercise Circuit by clicking here

 

What if I am having a flare up?

A flare up is a temporary increase in pain as a result of tissue irritation and not due to ‘damage’ or a new problem.

Flare ups can last from a few minutes to a few months, for some people, only easing with rest whilst others  will require more active support to help them recover. This is ideally done through: 

  1. The use of regular pain relief 
  2. Taking more rests than usual 
  3. Moving little and often 
  4. Gradually increasing exercises/stretches.

As symptoms start to improve, you can gradually return to your normal routine. Flare ups usually occur in two ways, firstly as a response to over doing an activity and secondly as a gradual response.

Most people find it easier to manage a flare up that happens on the same day as an activity. This makes it easier to identify your ‘triggers’ and modify your activity based on this, such sitting after walking for a prolonged period, or taking breaks from sitting for long periods, whilst at work.

Many people can become very frustrated by flare ups and this can lead to anger. These kinds of negative feelings can have an adverse effect and in fact increase pain. For this reason, it is important to remember that flare ups do not mean harm and will improve with the right management plan

Work

Work environments can vary significantly for each person, whether this is desk based and sitting for long periods or manual work involving lots of lifting and carrying. The important things to remember are that our backs are like any other muscles in our bodies and can become tired.

We would always encourage individuals to try and change postures regularly to reduce prolonged strain on our backs. This can be done by getting up and moving around every 30 mins when working at a desk or by straightening up if in prolonged bent over periods,

Desk layouts can be assessed by Occupational Health departments and with advice from the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) www.hse.gov.uk

Or we would recommend speaking to your line manager at work.

Repeated lifting of objects can place more strain on your back and we would always encourage good back health. To do this we would recommend being aware of our postures when lifting, keeping objects close to our bodies and avoiding excessive bending or twisting. This is to make sure you have a good control over the object you are lifting.