Learn about back pain

Back pain, especially lower back pain, is one of the most common causes of body pain. Here we look at the symptoms and causes, as well as how to relieve back pain.

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Symptoms of back pain

Back pain can be felt in many ways. It can vary from mild to so severe that it affects your ability to move.

Back pain can be felt as muscle aches, stabbing pain, pain that radiates down your leg, and reduced flexibility or range of motion.


You may experience back pain as a tingling or burning sensation, a dull achy feeling, or sharp pain.


Back pain may also be felt as pain or weakness in other parts of the body including your leg, hip or the sole of your foot.


How back pain can affect you

If you suffer from back pain, you may find it harder to do certain things such as going up stairs and lifting heavy objects (or objects that you used to lift with ease). You may also experience tingling and numbness. This can interrupt your daily routine and affect your quality of life.

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Did you know?

78% of people with pain, say body pain impacts negatively on their professional life.*

82% of people with pain, feel pain in their lower back.**

*GSK Global Pain Index Research 2014 full report, p.20
**GSK Global Pain Index Research 2014 full report, p.11

Why do we experience back pain?

Back pain has numerous causes. These can include injury, joint problems and muscles strains. The location of back pain can help to identify the causes.

What causes lower back pain?

Lower back pain is commonly caused by:

  • Muscle spasms or a strain or tear in the muscles and ligaments. This can happen after:
    - Bending, lifting or carrying heavy objects
    - Sitting or driving in a hunched position

Upper back pain is commonly caused by:

  • Muscular irritation caused by weak muscles, accidents and overuse or sports injuries


Causes of back pain at work

If your job involves the following tasks and they are not performed properly, this can lead to back pain:

  • Lifting, carrying, pushing or pulling incorrectly
  • Sitting or driving for long periods without taking a break
  • Standing or bending for long periods

Everyday activities that can cause back pain

Back pain can be triggered by everyday activities at home including:

  • Bending awkwardly
  • Lifting, carrying, pushing or pulling incorrectly
  • Slouching in chairs
  • Standing or bending for long periods
  • Twisting
  • Over-stretching
  • Sitting or driving for long periods without taking a break

Expert treatment

In some cases, you will not need to see a doctor about back pain because your pharmacist can advise about painkillers you can use to self-treat it. But if you are struggling to cope with the pain, or it is long lasting, then you should visit your doctor. Your doctor will examine your back and ask you questions about when you started to feel back pain, where the pain is, if it feels better or worse at certain times and whether you have had it before.

Your doctor may refer you for further tests to determine the cause of your pain. Your doctor might also share advice on how to relieve the pain and may recommend pain relievers, the use of heat or ice, and light exercise such as walking.

Back pain facts

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*Global Pain Index Summary Report 2014. Available: www.global-pain-index.com. Last accessed 20th April 2016.

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