Back pain

Back pain

Back pain, particularly lower back pain, is very common. It usually improves within a few weeks but can sometimes last longer or keep coming back. There are things you can do to help ease the pain.

Back pain can have many causes. It's not always obvious what causes it, and it often gets better on its own.

A common cause of back pain is an injury like a pulled muscle (strain).

Sometimes, medical conditions like a slipped disc, sciatica (a trapped nerve) or ankylosing spondylitis can cause back pain.

Very rarely, back pain can be a sign of a serious problem such as a broken bone, cancer or an infection.

Back pain often improves on its own within a few weeks. There are things you can do to help speed up your recovery.

There are specific exercises and stretches you can do to help with back pain. But stop if your pain gets worse and see a GP for advice.

If your back pain is severe or not getting better, a GP may prescribe painkillers or medicines to relax the muscles in your back.

Other treatments may be recommended if your pain does not get better after a few weeks.

These include:

  • group exercise sessions and physiotherapy
  • manual therapy – where a trained therapist massages and moves the muscles, bones and joints in your back
  • cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to help you cope with the pain
  • a procedure to seal off some of the nerves in your back so they stop sending pain signals (only for long-term lower back pain)

If your back pain is caused by a medical condition like a slipped disc and other treatments have not helped, surgery may be an option.