How to overcome your back pain

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28 February 2017 5:04PM

Cumbrian pharmacist Ben Merriman talks about back pain, and the range of effective remedies and medicines available to help.

Affecting up to one in six Britons at any one time, back pain is one of the most commonly suffered types of pain.

Most cases of back pain occur at the bottom of the back but symptoms can occur anywhere from the neck to the top of the hips. Normally back pain resolves of its own accord in a couple of weeks but it occasionally can become a long term problem.

Although it may have a known cause, such as a slipped disc or sciatica (pain felt in the buttocks or back of the legs but caused by a problem with the sciatic nerve in the lower back) it can occur for no obvious reason. It will usually resolve of its own accord, with simple remedies and over the counter treatments helping recovery, and a visit to your GP is usually not necessary.

The most important thing to do is to keep active.

We used to recommend rest when a patient had back pain but we now know this can sometimes aggravate the condition. Despite being painful at first, keeping moving will actually accelerate healing of the area. Don’t over exert yourself however; just try and increase the activity done each day as the pain eases.

Both hot and cold treatments have beneficial effects too. A hot bath or shower can give relief as well as applying either a heat pack (such as a hot water bottle) or cold pack (the good old bag of frozen peas!) to the area affected. Try not to apply either hot or cold packs directly to the skin; wrapping them in a tea towel or applying them over clothing will protect the skin from becoming damaged by the extreme temperatures.

Some people also find alternative between hot and cold treatments helpful too, having 20 minutes of each treatment at a time.

A range of painkillers are also available. Both paracetamol and ibuprofen are effective at easing pain. As they work in different ways, they can be taken together and help ease symptoms effectively.

As with all medicines, over the counter treatments can sometimes interfere with prescribed medicines but your pharmacist is trained to help you identify which treatments are best for you and the medicines you already take.

If you don’t pay for your prescriptions, NHS Cumbria’s Minor Ailments Scheme allows pharmacies such as Murray's to supply these pain killers free of charge, as well as giving advice about other remedies that may help ease any symptoms.

Ben Merriman is a community pharmacist and member and treasurer of Cumbria Local Pharmaceutical Committee follow him on Twitter @blmerriman


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