Back pain: Five things you must do if you want to relieve painful symptoms

An aching lower back – also known as lumbago – is particularly common, although back pain can range from anywhere along the spine. Bupa provides healthcare for the general public, and has offered its tips to help relieve the nation of their troublesome woes.


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For one, exercise is key. “Stay active and continue your daily activities as normally as you can,” the healthcare provider advises.

Secondly, the amount of time you sit for can affect your back. “Try to avoid sitting for long periods,” it continues.

Thirdly, Bupa recommends taking “care when lifting – avoid bending or twisting your back”.

The health organisation also has some surprising comments on sleeping positions.

It’s fourth tip is to do with sleep. It recommends: “If you sleep on your side, it may help to sleep with a small cushion between your knees.”

“And if you sleep on your back, try some firm pillows under your knees.”

Finally, heated and cold treatments may work wonders for temporary relief, but BUPA warns: “Don’t put ice directly on your skin.”

For those seeking a medicated pain suppressant, over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, are appropriate for the short-term.

Bupa reports that “nine out of 10 people find their back pain improves within four to six weeks”.

However, there are people whose back pain need medical attention.

The NHS urges people to visit their GP if their back pain:

  • Doesn’t start to improve within a few weeks
  • Stops you from doing your day-to-day activities
  • The pain is very severe or gets worse over time
  • You’re worried about the pain or are struggling to cope


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Take note, some NHS physiotherapists accept appointments without a doctor’s referral.

Private treatment from a physiotherapist is also an alternative.

A GP, specialist or physiotherapist may propose other treatments if the self-care measures aren’t helping to minimise back pain. Possible recommendations include:

Group exercise classes – where you’re taught exercises to strengthen your muscles and improve your posture.

Manual therapy – treatments such as manipulating the spine and massage, usually carried out by physiotherapists, chiropractors or osteopaths.

Psychological support, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – this can be a useful part of treatment if you’re struggling to cope with the pain.

Bupa says: “There’s no evidence that back supports, braces or insoles help treat or prevent back pain so doctors don’t generally recommend them.”

“If you wish to try them, talk to your physiotherapist first to ask if they are likely to help.”

Typically – even with X-rays and MRI scans – it’s difficult for any health professional to confirm exactly what is causing the back pain.

It’s common for people to be diagnosed with “non-specific back pain”, which basically means there’s no clear or specific cause.

But, with these tips in mind, hopefully any back pain sufferers are on their way to recovery.

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