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Back Pain

What is back pain?

It can be sharp pain, ache or spasm in middle of your back or on one side of your back. Sometimes people feel pain in one or both legs. Pain can be in combination with stiffness making it hard to turn or bend in a specific direction.

What causes back pain?

Most common cause of back pain is due to muscle strains and ligament sprains or joint dysfunction. Neck and lower back are most common locations of pain.


Things that can put people at more risk of injuring back muscles and ligaments include:

- muscle fatigue due to older age, excessive/poor lifting, poor/excessive sitting postures and sitting for long time, weak muscles (eg. from little or no exercise)

- overweight which puts pressure on the spine

- pregnancy which release hormones that relaxes ligaments of the pelvis to prepare for birth

- poor mobility/staying in one position for long time

- other serious medical causes include arthritis, disc degeneration, infection, sciatica & vertebral fracture.

How can we treat back pain?

It depends on what causes it and can be from serious (rarely) or non serious causes/medical conditions.

The majority of patients who experience back pain due to non serious causes will recover within 6 weeks. However, repeated episodes of back pain are common, and occur in 40-70% of patients. A small percentage of patients will go on to develop chronic back pain.

If you see your doctor they can help find out the cause and advise on best treatment for you. But most kinds of backpain sometimes do not have a cause and can resolve on its own so its best to progress with life as normal.

Try to avoid bedrest for long time (1-2 days is ok) as that can worsen back pain by making it stiff and sore and avoid activities and situations that can make back pain itself worse such as bending, lifting, etc.

Heat/cold packs applied on painful location for instant relief.

Try comfortable positions when sitting, sleeping or standing, etc.

Try sleeping on firm mattress with 2 pollows under your knees and keep your back flat. Don't sleep on your stomach. Use quality pillows as well.

Stretching, exercise, massage or manipulation like chiropractic or physiotherapy may help.

After recovery do an exercise program for back and abdominal muscles to help prevent re-injury. Get advice from your chiropractor/physiotherapist who is familiar in area of back care.

Surgey can help some types of back pain (eg. sciatica or damaged disc).

You ask your local pharmacist to recommend which pain relief medicines and anti-inflammatory medicines. gels and creams will help you. They will have to assess you and ask you questions to on what other medicines you take and any other medical conditions you have to help them choose best treatment for you.

Sometimes doctors can prescribe a stronger pain reliever on a script or for severe back pain they might give you an injection of corticosteroid or local anaesthetic into the joint or nerve area depending on your situation.

How can I prevent back pain?

1) Always remember to keep your back straight and sit, walk and stand with a balanced relaxed posture. Ask your healthcare professional (doctor, chiropractor or physiotherapist) who is familiar in back care on what exercies to do to improve posture and mobility so you can practice them regularly to prevent back pain from happening again.

2) When you stand a good posture is to stand tall, relax your shoulders and your back and tighten your tummy while still breathing normally, tuck your bottom in and soften your knees.

3) When lifting load, bend at hips and knees with feet apart and hold load close to your body, tighten your tummy and lift using your legs and keeping your back straight. When you turn move your feet but don't twist your spine. If load is too heavy for one person get some help or use equipment. Ask physiotherpaist about safe lifting techniques as different people need different lifting techniques depending on type or cause of back pain. Don't carry unbalanaced or one side loads.

4) When you want to reach down you need to squat or keel. Don't bend forward.

5) For women, wear low-heeled shoes with arch supports and cushioned heels.

6) When sweeping or vaccuming to clean house use short strokes and bend your knees and move your feet.

7) If you are in the middle of something and you suddenly feel back pain or leg numbness or tingling stop what you are doing.

8) When you lie down to sleep put your bed mattress on firm base and use low pillow.

9) When you are sitting, choose seats that support the whole length of your lower back and thighs and sit right back with feet flat on ground or on a footrest. If needed you can use lumbar roll for lower back. If you have office, make sure you set up your office and computer for good posture. If you drive for long time take regular breaks to stand, stretch and walk.

10) Maintain healthy body weight. Exercise at moderate level for at over 30 minutes on most or preferably all days of week. Ask you health care professional to show you how to do strengthening and flexibility exercises to  practice regularly and how to do relaxation techniques to reduce muscle tension.

11) Avoid sudden forceful movements and avoid coughing or sneezing with your back bent over or twisted.

12) If you experience persistent pain and rely on pain relievers see your doctor. Don't keep on taking them for long time without seeing your doctor.

For more information visit:

Arthritis Victoria

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