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Back Pain in the UK

Back pain is the leading cause of disability in the UK, according to a recent study. Over 11 percent of the UK population suffer from lower back pain alone and nearly 80 percent will suffer from back pain at some point in their lives untreated back pain is debilitating and is can a very a difficult condition to live with. Read on to learn about the different types of back pain and the various treatment options available in the UK. In 2016 39% of Brits took time off work due to lower back pain read here to learn more what to do if you have back pain.

The different types of back pain

There are many different types of back pain – chronic pain, which is long-term; acute pain, which typically lasts for three to six months; and neuropathic pain, a type of chronic pain that is often accompanied by tissue injury.

Back pain is often focussed on specific areas:

Lower back pain
This is the most common type of back pain experienced from the top of the legs to the lower rib cage. The condition is painful but usually self-limiting and generally improves after a few weeks.

Neck pain
This can be any type of pain from the base of the skull to the shoulders. Feelings of stiffness and tightness, and can often limit the movement of the head. Headaches are often associated with this type of back pain. Can be caused by bad posture or whiplash after an accident.

Upper and middle back pain
Upper and middle back pain is concentrated on the area below the shoulders to the bottom of the rib cage. The pain can be sharp or aching and sore.

Causes of back pain
There are many different causes of back pain and identifying the cause of the pain is often problematic.

Common causes of back pain can be:

Pregnancy – the strain a growing baby places upon the body means that lower back pain is extremely common in the last months before giving birth

Posture – bad posture, such as sitting at a desk hunched over a computer or your phone can impact your body for hours can often lead to back pain

Heavy lifting – when the muscles of the back are strained after lifting something heavy

Medical conditions that can cause back pain include:

A prolapsed or slipped disc – this can cause tingling or numbness as well as excruciating levels of back pain

Sciatica – inflammation of the nerve that runs from the lower back down the legs to the feet

Ankylosing spondylitis- causes stiffness and pain that is worse in the morning

Back pain can also be a sign of a serious issue, such as a broken bone in the spine, an infection, cancer or even cauda equina syndrome, where the nerves at the end of the spinal cord become severely compressed. If you suffer from back pain, you should consult your GP as soon as possible.

Treating back pain


Keep active if at all possible. Doctors recommend continuing with your normal daily activities as much as possible.
Special back exercises can also be very helpful. They can help to ease the pain and strengthen damaged back muscles. Consult your doctor for advice or a physiotherapist.


Anti-inflammatories can be very helpful at reducing pain relief. Always consult with your doctor first as they aren’t suitable for everyone.

Hot and Cold Packs

If you are suffering from back pain, you might find using an ice pack or a hot water bottle wrapped in a tea towel soothing if held against the affected area.

Alternative treatments for back pain

Manual therapy

Chiropractors, physiotherapists and osteopaths perform manual therapy to manipulate the muscles, bones and joints of the spinal region. This can be highly effective when used in conjunction with exercise and pain relief.

Pilates, aquaerobics and yoga are all ideal exercises for sufferers of back pain.

Supporting a friend or family member with back pain

Back pain can be a challenging condition to live with and sufferers often lose confidence and fitness. They will need ongoing emotional support and you should try and encourage the patient to stay as active as possible. Going to an aquaerobics class together or just for a gentle exercise stroll will help to speed up their recovery and let them feel less stressed.

Sources: NHS Choices, ArthritisResearchUK, Spine-health, Prevention, Spine-health

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