Back pain

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What is back pain?

Back pain is a common problem which affects 4 out of 5 of us at some point. It’s often caused by a simple muscle, tendon or ligament strain and not usually by a serious problem. Read more >

How is the back structured?

The backbone, or spinal column, is made up of 24 bones called vertebrae. The spinal cord lies within the backbone, which keeps it protected. Read more >

What causes back pain?

In most cases the cause of back pain is unclear, but some back pain may be caused by a range of factors, including:

  • poor posture
  • lack of exercise resulting in stiffening of the spine
  • muscle strains/sprains.

But there are some specific conditions associated with a painful back, including spondylosis, sciatica and spinal stenosis.

Read more >

Should I see a doctor about my back pain?

You should see your doctor if your pain:

  • is very severe or lasts for a long period of time
  • affects your everyday activities.

Very rarely, back pain can indicate a more serious problem. See your doctor immediately if you:

  • have difficulty controlling or passing urine
  • lose control of your bowels
  • have numbness around your back passage or your genitals have weakness in your legs or are unsteady on your feet.
Read more >

How can I help myself when I have back pain?

Try the following self-help tips to ease your back pain:

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Why does back pain become chronic?

Often we don’t know what causes chronic back pain or why the pain sometimes continues after the original problem has settled down. It’s really important to continue with your daily activities and exercise to reduce the impact it has on your everyday life. Read more >

What is the outlook for back pain?

For most people the outlook is good, with 75–90% recovering within a few weeks. However, the pain does tend to come back every now and then. Read more >

How are back problems diagnosed?

Your GP will probably be able to make a diagnosis after examining you, although sometimes you may need x-rays or scans. Read more >

What treatments are there for back pain?

Taking painkillers, staying active and doing some exercise are the most common things that help most people with back pain. If you need more treatment this may include:

Read more >

What if my back pain is affecting my work?

Try to stay at work, or get back as soon as possible. It’s important to keep in contact with your employer and discuss what can be done to help you when you return. Read more >

Research and new developments for back pain

The Arthritis Research UK Primary Care Centre has found that a new model of primary care can have significant benefits for patients seeking help from their GP. Read more >

Exercises to manage back pain

Exercises designed to strengthen and stabilise the structures that support the back. Read more >

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