How to treat back pain

If you develop low back pain for the first time your physiotherapist, doctor, or healthcare professional should screen you for signs of serious pathology.

Only in a very small number of cases are further tests required. Otherwise, you should try to return to your usual levels of physical activity as quickly as possible, and avoid bed rest. Your physiotherapist will educate you on the nature of the problem, and address any unhelpful beliefs about low back pain.

For the majority of people who first hurt their back, there is no need for lots of treatment, and often some simple advice is sufficient. This may include advice on some simple exercises to ease your back pain. Patients who have higher levels of pain, disability, stress, anxiety, fear or depression may require more, and other, treatment to reduce the risk of low back pain becoming a chronic problem.

For people who have had persistent low back pain for a long time, participating in a regular exercise program makes a big difference. This can be a Pilates class, a dance class or a yoga programme, or something as simple as taking your dog for a 20 minute walk every day. 140 minutes per week is the recommended duration of exercise for good health. The important thing is it must be something that you enjoy, so that it can become a regular lifelong habit.

Your physiotherapist can advise you about this, as well as programmes in your area that address beliefs and attitudes about low back pain and physical activity which are offered by physiotherapists who have a special interest in the management of chronic pain.

For patients with higher levels of disability, stress, anxiety, fear or depression, multiple disciplines (possibly including a psychologist) may need to work together with the patient.

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