Lower back pain is a very common problem amongst the population and our most frequently treated condition here at Prestons Health.
Low back pain is so common, in fact, that it is much like a headache or runny nose. It issomething that almost everyone will experience at some point in their lives! Rarely is back pain due to anything serious.
What should I do if I have Low Back Pain?
Firstly, do not panic! If your back pain is acute (ie been going on for less than 6 weeks), then it is likely to make a good recovery naturally.
The video below was produced by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy in 2017 to help the public get moving after the onset of back pain. Press play below:
What if I have had back pain for less than 6 weeks?
We hope the video above helps you understand what we understand is helpful during this period. If you tried this advice, and/or still remain worried or concerned about your back pain, then we would recommend that you book an appointment with one of our Chartered Physiotherapists for an assessment/treatment session.
The first appointment with a Physiotherapist lasts up to one hour. During the session, we take time to listen to your story surrounding your back pain and then have a good look at your back, how you move/function and how your back and back muscles feel to touch. Up to date science around back pain has really helped us understand a multitude of factors that can contribute to back pain and we will ask you about these that may be contributing to your problem.
You will come away with a clear understanding of our findings and a specific treatment programme to help target your specific factors that are leading to pain and manage your condition.
What your treatment programme entails will totally depend on our findings and be bespoke to you. We will always give advice and information on self management. We are hands on therapists so we will often use manual techniques to facilitate movement restoration and pain relief during this acute period. In line with NICE guidelines (available here:) we will also always offer movement and exercise advice as well as these are known to help recover from an acute episode of back pain.
Our treatment rooms are private and the environment at Prestons Health is designed to help you feel relaxed and at ease. Our Team of Physiotherapists are all very experienced in treating a range of back pain issues and also in identifying any more worrying signs that may mean something serious is going on at which point, we can liase with your doctor to ensure prompt attention.
These symptoms are very rare but you should contact a doctor if you experience any of them:
- Difficulty passing urine or having the sensation to pass water that is not there
- Numbness/tingling in your genitals or buttocks area
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Impaired sexual function, such as loss of sensation during intercourse
- Loss of power in your legs
- Feeling unwell with your back pain, such as a fever or significant sweating that wakes you from sleep
What if you have been experiencing back pain for more than 6 weeks?
Pain that has been lasting more than 3 months is known as persistent pain due to the length of time it has been present. Often, additional pain mechanisms can be at play driving the disorder and our Physiotherapists can help you identify what these are and advise on how to target these factors.
What if I have already been seeing a healthcare professional for my back pain?
Due to our knowledge and understanding of the research base surrounding back pain as well as applying it to our patients, we are commonly asked for second opinions surrounding back pain.
The science of back pain is a complex area but our philosophy is to break this complexity down in a simple and non-threatening way for our patients.
Sadly, people often see a range of healthcare professionals for back pain including other physiotherapists, chiropractors, osteopaths, massage practitioners or other non HCPC registered therapists and find that these often give no more than short term relief.
We pride ourselves in being different to other private healthcare providers in that we do not encourage dependency on our services. We work with you, in a partnership, to guide you through the process of managing your back pain and getting you back doing the things you love!
Please look on our facebook page for our most recent reviews from patients, available here
Our business has been long established in Peterborough since 1969 and our best adverts for the quality of care are our existing patients.
Our holistic approach is backed by up to date research.
Our Clinical Lead Physiotherapist, Helen Preston, was recently asked to contribute to a working group of researchers and clinicians to help the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy put together a public health campaign surrounding what we now know about back pain:
- Your back is stronger than you may think
Most people worldwide will experience back pain during their lifetime. It can be disabling and worrying but it is very common and rarely dangerous. The spine is a strong, stable structure and not easily damaged so in most instances it is a simple sprain or strain. In these cases – 98 per cent, according to research – people recover reasonably quickly, and many do so without treatment.Some people experience repeat episodes, which can be distressing, but again these are rarely dangerous.
- You rarely need a scan and it can do more harm than good
This is because seeing perfectly normal changes to their spine can cause people to avoid the activities they should be doing to get better, such as exercise and movement in general.In very rare cases, there may be something more serious or underlying that requires medical advice.A scan may help with your diagnosis and symptoms to be aware of are at the bottom of this page.However, these account for just two per cent of cases so if your physio or GP does not send you for one, you should take it as a good sign that there is nothing concerning going on.
- Avoid bedrest, stay in work and gradually resume normal activities
Scientific studies now indicate prolonged rest and avoidance of activity for people with low back pain actually leads to higher levels of pain, greater disability, poorer recovery and longer absence from work.In the first few days of a new episode of low back pain, avoiding aggravating activities may help to relive pain.However, staying as active as possible and returning to all usual activities gradually is actually important in aiding recovery – this includes staying in work where possible.While it is normal to move differently and more slowly in the first few days of having back pain, this altered movement can be unhealthy if continued in the long-term.
- You should not fear bending or lifting
Bending and lifting are often portrayed as causes of back pain and while an injury can occur if something is picked up in an awkward or unaccustomed way, it’s most likely to just be a sprain or strain.The important thing is to practice and get your body used to carrying different loads and weights in a way we find comfortable and efficient.We all run differently, and it’s perfectly normal for us to find our own technique for lifting.
- Exercise and activity reduce and prevent back pain
Exercise is shown to be very helpful for tackling back pain and is also the most effective strategy to prevent future episodes.Start slowly and build up both the amount and intensity of what you do and don’t worry if it’s sore to begin with – you won’t be damaging your back.No one type of exercise is proven to be more effective than others so just pick an exercise you enjoy, that you can afford to maintain in the long-term and that fits in with your daily schedule.
- Painkillers will not speed up your recovery
There is no strong evidence on the benefits of painkillers and they do not speed up recovery.They should only be used in conjunction with other measures, such as exercise, and even then just as a short-term option as they can bring side effects.Exercise, which is safer and cheaper, is considered the preferred option.
- Surgery is rarely needed
There are some uncommon back conditions where there is pressure on the nerves that supply the legs and the patient gets leg symptoms, such as pain, pins and needles or numbness.For these conditions, surgery can help the leg symptoms but it is important to understand that it is not always required.You also need to know that on average, the results for back surgery are no better in the medium and long term than non-surgical interventions, such as exercise.So a non-surgical option, which includes exercise and activity, should always come first.
- Get good quality sleep
The importance of sleep in tackling back pain has become increasingly clear in recent years.This is because it reduces stress and improves your overall feeling of wellbeing, making you less susceptible to the triggers of pain in the first instance and helping you to cope when it does occur.Aim for 7.5-8 hours a night and try to aim for a regular routine, as far as possible.It is also very important to know that there is no best position or type of mattress – whatever feels most comfortable for you is best.
- You can have back pain without any damage or injury
Many physical or psychological factors can cause back pain and often a combination of these are involved.Many factors can cause back pain and often a combination of these are involved.They could be– Physical factors, such as ‘protecting’ the back and avoiding movements, or a simple strain.
– Psychological factors, including a fear of damage or not getting better, feeling down or being stressed.
– More general health and lifestyle factors, like being tired and rundown, not getting enough good quality sleep, being overweight or not getting enough physical activity
– Social triggers, such as difficult relationships at work or home, low job satisfaction or stressful life events, like a family death or illness.Crucially, it’s important to know that all pain is 100 per cent real and never ‘all in your head’, even when factors like stress or mood are involved.Each of the factors can turn up the volume on your pain and gaining a greater understanding of when that can happen puts you in a stronger position to recognise them and learn how to turn down the dial again.
- If it doesn’t clear up, seek help but don’t worry
If your back pain does not clear up after 6 – 8 weeks, make an appointment to see your GP or physiotherapistPhysiotherapists provide expert advice, guidance and treatment for back pain.This is to help reduce your chances of future episodes, while improving your overall health and wellbeing.
This campaign is available on the CSP website here:
The leaflet is downloadable from this PDF document: 001446_spinedumbell_a4