Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust: Healthcare from the heart of your community

Back pain

Suffering from back pain can have a big impact on your everyday routine - making you feel as though you are unable to carry out your normal daily activities.But with the right guidance and support, most people with back pain can recover without the need for medical help. Below, you'll find information, advice and resources from our specialist spinal clinicians at the Community Spinal Service to help you get back to health.

What is back pain?

Back pain is a very unpleasant, but common, problem affecting 8 out of 10 people at some point in their life. Back pain will usually settle itself like any other injury: the body heals the damaged tissues. 50% of people will be better within 2 weeks and 90% will be better within 8 weeks.

Back pain is usually not serious. The majority of back pain is caused by a simple injury such as a sprain or strain and only 1% is caused by serious pathology. While painful, it doesn’t mean it is serious, even if the pain travels down your leg.

Causes of back pain

Lower back pain is very common and it is estimated that four out of every five adults will experience back pain at some stage in their life. In lots of cases, it is very difficult to establish one single cause for back pain.

The following factors could all contribute to lower back pain:

  • Previous history of back pain
  • Obesity
  • Physical factors such as repetitive work, sustained postures, frequent lifting, bending or twisting and heavy physical work
  • Psychosocial factors such as stress, depression and anxiety.

At Berkshire Healthcare we work alongside you, in your local area, to assist you in the management of your back pain.

Managing your back pain

Acute back pain is usually short-lived and most people will see a huge improvement in their back by doing the following:

  • Taking regular pain relief, like paracetamol, to allow you to move normally
  • Taking anti-inflammatory tablets like ibuprofen as well, if you need to
  • Continuing with your day-to-day life as much as possible
  • Making sure you get a good balance of rest and activity

If you are not starting to get better within 1 week, or your pain is severe, see your GP. Pain does not mean that you are damaging your back, it will hurt as you move back to health. Find out more about treating yourself with heat and ice, basic painkillers as well as treatment for neuropathic (nerve) pain.

Types of back pain

New pain that you have not had for long, typically less than three months, is called acute pain and usually responds to traditional painkillers. Pain that has lasted for a longer period we call chronic pain and is managed in a different way. Find out more about managing your pain and how diet and exercise can help you to recover, as well as how to cope at work when you're suffering from back pain. Find out more about different types of back pain.

Take a test to see if you need extra support

Take this one-minute test to identify how likely your pain is to persist over the next year and whether you may need some extra support.

How we help you

The nature of your back pain will determine how we can help you. We have physiotherapists based at several locations across Berkshire who are able to assess and recommend a management plan personal to you. We also offer a Back Rehabilitation Programme in Berkshire West to assist in the management of non-specific lower back pain.

We encourage you to play an active role in the management of your lower back pain, working alongside the guidance of our therapists to achieve your goals.

If your GP feels it is appropriate they can refer you the Community Spinal Service for assessment with an extended scope physiotherapist who specialises in spines. They will organise further investigations where necessary and arrange any relevant treatment.

Your GP will help guide your recovery and prevention of further back pain by using the right pain killers as needed, along with some good advice. When you need extra help, they can help you decide what's best for you. Routine xrays or scans are inappropriate. It has been shown that these tests are unhelpful and your GP will not routinely organise these. Find out more about treatment options.

Avoiding back pain

Back pain can happen for many reasons, such as sitting, standing or moving incorrectly at home or at work. However, back pain often occurs for no obvious reason whatsoever. It is sometimes possible to prevent back pain before it starts, by following a few easy steps to make sure your back is kept in the best position possible. Learn how to avoid pain at work, at home and when you are in the garden.