Ease back pain and put a spring in your step

Shuaib Karmani

One in four of us will be affected by back pain at some point in our lives. Sufferers will know how even minor tasks can be a struggle. But taking regular exercise and using mild painkillers when required can provide much-needed relief to troublesome aches and pains, says Shuaib Karmani, Consultant Orthopaedic Trauma and Spinal Surgeon.

As it gets colder, many people can suffer from stiffer joints which makes it more difficult to carry out daily jobs. Incorporating a simple exercise programme into your routine can be a great way to keep your joints supple, your heart in shape and help to avoid injury.

Get into good habits at work

To help avoid neck and back pain at your desk, adjust your chair so that your lower back is properly supported. Place the monitor at arm’s length, with the top of the screen roughly at eye level. If the screen is too high or too low, you'll have to bend your neck, which can cause discomfort. Maintaining good posture by keeping a straight back and adjusting your car seat before driving will also help ensure that your back remains pain-free.

When to see the doctor

Back pain is one of the most common reasons to visit a GP but it is important to know when to make an appointment. If you have difficulty sleeping, experience numbness, tingling or weakness in your arms or legs, you should seek medical advice. If the pain is associated with a fever or weight loss it can indicate a more serious form of back pain.

How to ease pain

For simple back pain, your GP will recommend:

  • Staying active and taking gentle exercise to keep your joints supple and strong
  • Taking simple painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen
  • Applying hot or cold packs to the painful area

Almost 75% of attacks will settle by themselves

For severe and chronic neck and back pain that does not settle, you should be referred to a specialist spinal surgeon. There are many non-surgical and surgical techniques available to help with pain and improve mobility. Many procedures can be performed via minimally invasive (keyhole) methods leading to small scars, quicker recovery and better healing.

Top tips to avoid back pain

  • Take regular exercise - walking and swimming are particularly useful
  • Try to keep your stress levels to a minimum
  • Bend from your knees and hips, not your back
  • Maintain good posture - keep your shoulders back and don’t slouch
  • Remember to stretch and take regular breaks

Back pain doesn’t have to be something you simply put up with. Following these pointers and tailoring a gentle daily exercise plan to a level you can manage might help make those daily jobs that little bit easier. Keeping a spring in your step will keep you in shape and one step ahead of the kids as the days draw in and Christmas approaches!