Low Back Pain

Why have I got back pain?

Most people do not really know why they have back pain and the likely cause of their symptoms. Back pain is often due to a build-up of different things. Examples might include working in awkward positions, sitting for prolonged periods or repeating tasks frequently without changing position regularly.

What is the cause of my back pain?

It is rarely due to any serious disease or damage. Back pain can be felt in the lower back area and it can spread into the buttocks. Pain can occasionally travel into your leg (sciatica). This type of pain is normally due to the sciatic nerve being irritated.

The lack of a clearly defined cause can make back pain sufferers feel very frustrated. Most people would like a specific diagnosis for their symptoms, but sometimes this is not possible. Physiotherapists are equipped with the necessary skills to help manage back pain and identify the likely cause.

How long will my back pain last?

Most people suffering from acute back pain recover within six weeks. Recovery can be enhanced if you keep active, remaining at work trying to do things as normally as possible; even though you may have to modify activities at first.

If symptoms do not start to improve within a week or so, you should consider contacting a physiotherapist or GP to begin treatment and rehabilitation.


Is my back pain something serious?

Back pain affects a large number of people at some point in their lives and is rarely due to any serious disease or damage.

If you experience any of the following, you need to contact a doctor as soon as possible.

  • Difficulty passing or controlling urine
  • Numbness around your back passage or genitals

If you experience any of the following, you need to speak to your doctor as soon as possible.

  • Serious pain which gets worse over several weeks.
  • Generally feeling unwell.
  • Back pain that starts when you are ill with other problems such as rheumatoid arthritis or cancer.
  • Your back problem doesn’t settle after six weeks.
  • Numbness, pins and needles, or weakness in one or both legs.
  • Unsteadiness when you walk

How can further episodes of back pain be avoided?

Keep active…keep moving and begin to return to ‘your’ normal activity gradually.

It is a good idea to aim for 30 minutes of moderate activity a day, 5 days a week. That might sound like a lot, but ‘moderate’ activity can be anything that makes you slightly out of breath and increases your heart rate; like a brisk walk.

In most cases, back pain recovers in a few weeks but it is not uncommon for it to return. You can help things by trying to stay in control of your symptoms, try to follow treatment for Back Pain

Treatment for Back Pain

Don't take back pain lying down!

The longer you are off work with back pain, the greater the risk of chronic pain and disability.

  • Take painkillers
  • Take action and get treatment and rehabilitation advice from your physiotherapist or GP if your back pain is not getting better
Keep active, even if you have to modify things at first.

There are no specific exercises that help every person with back pain. However, some safe exercises have been produced to help keep you moving. Gradually returning to any sports or hobbies you may have is also a very important part of your rehabilitation.

You may have to start gradually and modify activities to begin with. It will take time to slowly return to full fitness.

How do I lift correctly?

Every lift has its own risks. Try and plan ahead before lifting anything. If you are in employment, discuss this with your employers. Lifting is not only related to work. You lift in many daily activities such as picking up your baby, shopping bags or gardening.

What about sitting?

Sitting without regularly changing positions can also cause problems. Being aware of your sitting posture can help reduce back pain problems.

Avoid sitting for prolonged periods and get up to move regularly. Remember these simple rules apply whether you are sitting at work or at home.

Further Investigations for Low Back Pain

Do I need an MRI scan?

MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) is a type of scan that is often used to diagnose health conditions that affect organs, tissue and bone. In most cases with back pain you will not require an MRI.

If you have pain from your back, which is travelling down your leg (sciatica) that is not improving within the expected time frame of normal treatment and rehabilitation then an MRI may be considered. This can be discussed with your physiotherapist or GP.

Do I need an X-ray?

An X-ray is a painless way of producing pictures of inside the body using radiation. In most cases of back pain, X-rays are not necessary. An X-ray rarely helps diagnose the problem and can expose you to unnecessary radiation.

Do I need an operation?

In the UK only around 1-2% of people with back pain ever require surgery.

To book an appointment with one of our Physiotherapists please call our Client Services Team on 0800 043 0327