A guide to back pain: prevention, relief, and symptoms to watch out for

Written by: Mr Nicholas Thomas
Published: | Updated: 02/07/2019
Edited by: Cal Murphy

Back pain is a common complaint that can affect people at any age and can occur in any part of the back. It usually goes away after a few weeks, or maybe months; however, for some individuals, back pain can be a long-term problem. Expert neurosurgeon Mr Nicholas Thomas explains.

Back pain can occur for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Strained back muscle
  • Traumatic injury
  • Slipped disc
  • Sciatica
  • Poor posture
  • Simply not being active enough

Back pain is a non-specific symptom, and a thorough examination will be needed to ascertain the cause and the best course of action to take.


Preventing back pain

While there is no sure-fire way of preventing accidents, injuries, or diseases that cause back pain, there are several measures you can take to reduce the risk of back pain, most of which can also help to relieve any back pain you already have:

  • Improve your posture
  • Recognise your physical limits and don’t over-exert yourself
  • Stay active and keep physically fit – activities such as walking, running, and swimming are all good for keeping the body, including the back, in shape.
  • Stretch – this keeps the back (and the rest of the body) flexible. Stretching before exercise and activities such as yoga and Pilates are good ways to do this.
  • Make sure your mattress is supportive – sleeping on a bad mattress can affect your back.

Other measures for relieving pre-existing back pain include taking anti-inflammatory painkillers like ibuprofen and applying hot or cold compresses to the painful part of the back.

If these measures fail to reduce the pain, and especially if it is affecting your day-to-day life, a visit to a doctor is in order.


Back pain with other symptoms

Back pain may be accompanied by a number of other symptoms, which can be worrying, including weakness, tingling, numbness, and pain that radiates to the limbs. You should seek medical attention immediately if the following symptoms occur in conjunction with back pain:

If you have experienced physical trauma in an accident which has resulted in back pain, you should also get yourself checked by a doctor. Likewise, if the pain is not improving or is getting worse, see a specialist.


Getting checked out

The doctor will perform a physical examination, go over your medical history, and may schedule a scan, such as an X-ray or MRI to try to identify a specific cause for the pain. Despite the fact that back pain is common, there can be underlying issues that the patient is not aware of.

At the London Neurosurgery Partnership, patients come to us with all sorts of problems and conditions involving back pain. Contact Mr Thomas for an appointment by visiting his Top Doctors profile and get the diagnosis and help you need.


By Mr Nicholas Thomas

Mr Nicholas Thomas is a highly-skilled, London-based neurosurgeon. Operating at a number of prestigious medical institutions in the capital, including King's College Hospital, the Harley Street Clinic and the London Neurosurgery Partnership. He is widely considered to be one of the world’s leading skull base surgeons and the pioneer of endoscopic skull base surgery in the UK, and has been a valued panel member at many UK and international workshops on endoscopic pituitary surgery. Over the last 12 years Mr Thomas has visited Sri Lanka to lecture and perform operations with local neurosurgeons on a charitable basis.

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