Back pain is very common; it is estimated that four out of every five adults will experience back pain at some stage in their life (source; Backcare.org.uk).
Although in most cases back pain is nothing serious and disappears of its own accord, some simple measures can be taken to reduce the chance of it developing again, such as maintaining a healthy weight, or exercising regularly.
Try to limit sedentary tasks such as computer work. If this is not possible, check and improve your posture, change position frequently, stretch regularly and avoid slouching. For further advice on the use of display screen equipment, please visit the Occupational Health webpages.
Try to limit heavy physical work, frequent bending, twisting, lifting, pulling and pushing, repetitive work, static postures and vibrations. Use correct techniques for lifting heavy objects, remember to bend your knees and make your legs do the work; keep the weight you are lifting as close as possible to your body and don’t twist as you lift. Ask for help if you need it.
If you lift objects as part of your job you should have been identified as a ‘manual handler’ and been sent on appropriate training. If this is not the case, talk to your line manager who can refer you on to the University’s manual handling training.
The HSE produces a useful resource; Getting to grips with manual handling; a short guide.
What should I do if I get back pain?
Activity is the best way to help the back recover. Avoiding movement in an attempt to avoid pain and discomfort slows recovery and can result in long term back pain.
- Try to continue with normal activities and stay active.
- Take regular pain medication, for example paracetamol or ibuprofen, to ease the pain and enable you to become mobile again. It has been found that a cold pack or heat treatment can also ease the symptoms.
- Return to work as soon as you feel able. Ask your manager for a referral to the Occupational Health Service for advice on returning to work with back pain, as adjustments may need to be made to your role.
- Make an appointment to see your GP if the pain continues, gets worse or is no longer relieved by regular pain medication.
- Qualified professionals such as physiotherapists and osteopaths can also help, and treatment should ideally be started during the first six weeks.
Persistent back pain
Persistent back pain is not only painful but also frustrating. If you have severe pain which worsens over a number of weeks, or if you feel unwell because of your back pain, you should make an appointment to see your GP. Find out more about the causes of back pain and top 10 tips for a healthy back, including lifting advice, how to sit properly and back-strengthening exercises.