What is Back Pain and How to Treat It
- Lower back pain is so common that it ranks among the top health problems reported in the Irish Health Survey in 2015.
- You might feel it as a muscle ache or a stronger stabbing, shooting pain that may also be felt down your leg. The pain can range from mild to severe.
- It’s such a common problem that low back pain is the main reason people have to take time off work.
What is Back Pain and How to Treat It
Lower back pain is so common that it ranks among the top health problems reported in the Irish Health Survey in 2015.1 It found that around 1 in 5 people have lower back pain, but over the course of our lifetime, between 60%-85% of us will experience that familiar pain at least once.1,2 That means you’ll experience pain and discomfort below the lower edge of your ribs to your buttocks.2 You might feel it as a muscle ache or a stronger stabbing, shooting pain that may also be felt down your leg.3 The pain can range from mild to severe.3 It’s such a common problem that low back pain is the main reason people have to take time off work.3
Causes of Back Pain
Causes of back pain can be something as simple as turning round awkwardly, while for others it can be a symptom of a long-term health condition.2,3 Non-specific back pain is defined as low back pain not attributed to a known cause (e.g. infection, tumour, osteoporosis, fracture etc).4 Among the most common culprits of back pain are:3,5
- Making a sudden or awkward movement
- A slipped disc
- Sciatica, where the nerve that runs from the pelvis to the foot becomes irritated
The good news is that it’s very rare that back pain is a sign of a more serious condition.5 The bad news is that it can take a while to fully recover. Around 9 out of 10 people with lower back pain were better within 6 weeks but between 2-7% of the population find it becomes a long-term health problem.4
Pain The first thing to be aware of is that you need to keep moving.4 Tempting though as it is to stay in bed when you have back pain, it doesn’t help you get better.4 It may even make you feel more stiff and take longer to recover.4 So, keep moving and use pain relievers to help ease your pain. Paracetamol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, are recommended by back pain experts.4 Take pain relievers to get the short term relief you need.4 Always read the label of the medicine and speak to your healthcare professional. For pain due to muscular strain or sprain a possible alternative is to try Nurofen Durance 200mg Medicated Plasters, which can offer 24 hours effective pain relief in one application.There’s also some evidence that applying heat (e.g. heat wraps, hot water bottle) to the affected area can help ease low back pain.6 Find out more about Nurofen 200mg Coated Tablets or Nurofen 200mg Medicated Plaster. [Insert link to product section]
Helping Prevent Back Pain
There are a number of different things that can increase your risk of back pain, so it makes sense that tackling these can help prevent a flare up. Things that can help include:5
- Exercise – regular exercise can help strengthen your back, 150 minutes of exercise a week is recommended, such as yoga, walking and swimming. Specific back exercises and stretches can also help
- Losing weight – carrying extra weight can increase the chances of developing back ache
- Lifting – taking care when lifting
- Watch your posture when sitting down or working at a computer. Try and avoid sitting still for long periods too
- Check your mattress to make sure it’s giving you the support you need.
When to see your doctor
Although most back pain does get better in a few weeks, if you find it’s no better after this time, your pain is severe or getting worse and stopping you doing the things you love, then see your doctor for advice. Signs of more serious problems, where you see your doctor as soon as possible or head to A&E include: back pain that doesn’t get better with rest or is worse at night or if you sneeze or cough, if there is numbness or tingling around your genitals or buttocks, you have chest pain, have a fever or you develop bowel or bladder problems, swelling in your back or the pain is in your upper back or you lose weight without trying.5
Nurofen 200mg Coated Tablets contain ibuprofen. For mild to moderate pain and fever. Nurofen Durance 200 mg Medicated Plasters contain ibuprofen. For the short-term symptomatic treatment of local pain in acute muscular strains, or sprains in benign traumas close to the joint of the upper or lower limb in adults or adolescents aged 16 years and older. ALWAYS READ THE LABEL.
This article is for general information only and not intended as a substitute for medical advice. All information presented on these web pages is not meant to diagnose or prescribe. In all health-related matters, always consult your healthcare professional.
Central Statistics Office. Irish Health Survey 2015.
EUMusc.net. Musculoskeletal health in Europe. Report v 5.0.
Duthey B. Priority Medicines for Europe and the World "A Public Health Approach to Innovation". Background paper 6.24. Low back pain. March 2013.
Van Tulder M, et al. Eur Spine J, 2006;15(Suppl1): S169-191.
NHS. Back pain. Accessed May 2021. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/back-pain/
French SD, et al. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2006, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD004750. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD004750.pub2.