Back pain is common and affects most people at some time in their life. It is commonly caused by an injury to the back such as overstretching during lifting, bending or twisting. This may result in damage to muscles, ligaments or discs.
Back pain can be experienced as a sharp pain, an ache or a spasm that may be felt in the middle of the back or on one side. The pain can sometimes also be felt in one or both legs. Back pain may be associated with stiffness, which makes it hard to move or bend in certain directions.
Factors that put people at increased risk of injuring the back include bad work practices and lifting techniques, poor posture, being overweight, lack of exercise, pregnancy and stress.
Treatment of back pain depends on the cause. Your doctor can help to diagnose the cause. Most back pain is not caused by a serious medical problem and tends to improve within a few days to a few weeks.
In the first few days you should aim to minimize pain and assist healing. You should apply a cold pack to the back for 20 minutes every one to two hours when awake and avoid heat, alcohol, re-injury or massage as these can worsen inflammation. It is best to sit as little as possible and rest by lying in a comfortable position, supported by pillows if necessary. Keep moving and walk as much as comfortably possible.
Generally, medicines such as paracetamol or an anti-inflammatory such as diclofenac or ibuprofen provide effective relief. Medicines containing codeine are best avoided as they can lead to constipation. Your Caremore pharmacist can advise which pain relief medicine is most appropriate for you.