Dealing with back pain

Most of us either will experience or have already suffered from back pain at some point in our lives - and it usually manifests itself as an ache, a tension or a stiffness.

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It most commonly occurs in the lower back area, but pain can manifest anywhere along the spine - from the neck to the hips.

The first advice most doctors now give to back pain sufferers is to keep active and continue with their daily tasks. While bedrest used to be recommended, it is now generally agreed that it can actually worsen back pain.

Painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen are recommended if necessary and hot and cold compression packs can be applied to the affected area to provide relief.

A positive mental attitude has also been shown to be a big factor in the speed of recovery, so while it's far easier said than done, try to take things easy as much as possible and avoid letting it get you down.

Usually the pain will clear up in a matter of weeks, but if it lasts beyond six weeks it is regarded as "chronic" and can be treated with a combination of painkillers, exercise classes, manual therapy and acupuncture.

Relaxation techniques can also be useful, because back pain can make us tense - which in turn can worsen the pain.

Preventing back pain
If your back pain has subsided then it can pay to take a few sensible measures to try to stop it returning.

How you stand, sit, lie down and lift things can all be contributing factors, so check out the NHS Choices website for some advice on the best way to do each of these.

Many back pain sufferers have realised that regular exercise can be an excellent way to keep it at bay, and activities such as yoga and Pilates can be particularly beneficial for strengthening back muscles and improving flexibility.

Being overweight can also be a factor in many incidents in back pain, so changing eating habits as well as increasing your exercise may be a good idea. Consult with a GP before you embark on any radical changes though.

If you have a history of putting your back out, it might be wise to avoid the sort of "twisting and extending at the same time" movements which can cause an episode, lift heavy loads with your knees bent and back straight and avoid overdoing it.

Wearing flat shoes with cushioned soles is advised, since heels have been linked to back pain in some instances.

If the pain is acute or reoccurring or you have a history of back issues, don't hesitate to see your GP.

What are your tips for dealing with back pain? Let us know in the comments below...