Lower Back Pain

How does the back work?

The spine, which is also called the backbone or spinal column, is one of the strongest parts of the body and gives us a great deal of flexibility and strength. It’s made up of 24 bones, known as vertebrae, one sitting on top of the other. These bones have discs in between and lots of strong ligaments and muscles around them for support.

As you grow older, the structures of your spine remain strong, but it’s usual for your back to get stiffer as you get older.

Most people suffer from lower back problems  at some point in their lives. They are very common. The majority of the time it doesn’t mean actual damage to your back.

If it’s a new thing, often you don’t need to seek advice from a medic or therapist for your lower back problem. X-rays, scans and treatment are not usually needed.

As far as possible, it’s best to continue with your normal everyday activities as soon as you can and to keep moving.

Being active and exercising won’t make your back pain worse, even if you have a bit of pain and discomfort at first. Staying active will help you get better. Taking painkillers can also help you do this.  Nearly all low back pain begins to fade within two weeks and settles within six weeks. For more information about long lasting low back pain see our 10 back facts leaflet. 

Occasionally patients with low back pain will have low back related leg pain. Some patients will only have leg pain and not experience low back pain.

If you have low back related leg pain you may have sciatica or lumbar spinal stenosis.

About half of people with sciatica, (a type of low back related leg pain) will have significant improvement by 12 weeks without any specific treatment.

  • A sprain/strain for example sports-related or work-related (lifting something awkwardly or something that is too heavy for what you are physically conditioned for).
  • A sudden increase or decrease in your normal exercise/activity levels.
  • A number of factors have been associated with low back pain including periods of increased stress, worry or low mood. Poor sleep, fatigue, smoking or being run down are factors also associated with low back pain.
  • Often the cause of lower back problems are not certain and the best course of action is to concentrate on the things that may help.

Some of the warning signs of one such problem called cauda equina syndrome include:

  • Loss of feeling/pins and needles between your inner thighs or genitals.
  • Altered sensation and/or pain consistently in both legs at the same time.
  • Numbness in or around your back passage or buttocks.
  • Changes to bladder function, such as loss of sensation, loss of control or an inability to empty your bladder.
  • Sexual problems such as loss of vaginal sensation and inability to achieve an erection or ejaculate.

If you experience any of the above contact CAV247 or your GP immediately.

For further information please see the Cauda Equina Syndrome Card

Exercise for Lower back pain:

Spinal Flexibility Class (Seated)

Self Referral to Physiotherapy (MSK)

If you have completed 4-6 weeks of these exercises and your symptoms have not improved.
Please refer to our Self Referral page.

Thoughts and Emotions When In Pain

Play Video

Psychology in People with Pain – Why it Matters (Parts 1 and 2)

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