All about back pain

If you have back pain, you’re not alone – up to 92% of people in the world¹ will experience it at some point in their lives.² But for most of us, it isn’t serious and will get better over time.² While you’re waiting for it to improve, there are plenty of things you can do to keep moving.

You can get pain in your lower back, middle back or in your neck. The pain might come on suddenly, or gradually.³ And it can range from a dull, constant ache to a sudden, sharp pain that stops you in your tracks.⁴ ⁵ Back pain might feel better, or worse, in the morning compared to at night and may ease, or get worse, in different positions. It all depends on what’s causing the problem.

So what’s going on?

The exact origin of back pain can vary. It might be a problem with:

  • a joint in your back – you might injure a joint in your back or it may break down over time with age, or because of a condition like arthritis⁶
  • a nerve around your spine – this might be compressed, which causes pain that can spread to other areas⁷
  • muscles or ligaments – you might strain these, or they can get tight if you sit at a desk all day, for example⁶
  • a torn or worn disc in your spine, which can cause inflammation and painful muscle spasms in the area⁷

However, more often than not, back pain is a result of straining your back from something like lifting something awkwardly; rather than any underlying disease, but risk factors like obesity and physical inactivity also play a key role. The medical term for this is non-specific back pain.⁸ Your body will react to an injury by initiating an inflammatory healing response, and it’s inflammation that can cause pain.⁷ This explains why anti-inflammatory medicines such as diclofenac, the active ingredient in Voltarol, can be effective at reducing back pain. See below for more on pain relief for back pain.

If you require relief, there’s a range of pain-relieving medicines so you can take back control and get moving.

To decide which medicine is best for you, it may help to learn a bit about pain, and what happens in your body in the article: Understanding the difference between acute and chronic pain.

Here’s how painkillers work:

  • Oral medicines (pills) like paracetamol and NSAIDs work on your whole body and disrupt messengers that transmit the feeling of pain to your brain. After you swallow the tablet, it’s transported to all parts of your body in your blood. Relatively high concentrations of the medicine in your blood are needed for them to reach an effective level at the site of action which can be the brain (paracetamol, codeine) and at the source of your pain and inflammation (NSAIDs).⁹
  • Topical medicines target your source of pain. You rub topical medicines on your skin over the area of pain, where it will penetrate the skin, enter tissues or joints, and reduce processes that cause pain in the tissue. The amount of the drug in your blood is far lower with topical medicines compared with the same drug in tablet form. 

Voltarol Back and Muscle Pain Relief 1.16% Gel is a topical medicine that relieves pain, reduces inflammation and helps speed up recovery.¹⁰ ¹¹ It brings targeted, local relief for pain and swelling (inflammation) in the back and neck.¹² The active ingredient in Voltarol is a NSAID called diclofenac. Diclofenac works to inhibit prostaglandin synthesis (substances in the body that cause pain and inflammation).¹³ By reducing their amounts, diclofenac helps to relieve pain and reduce inflammation.¹⁰ 

If symptoms persist after 7 days or get worse at any time, medical advice should be sought.


¹ GSK Global Pain Index Research 2017, Report
² Low back pain and sciatica. Patient.Co.Uk Professional Reference., accessed May 2018
³ Mechanical back pain clinical presentation. Medscape., accessed May 2018
⁴ Back pain. Nih., accessed May 2018
⁵ Thoracic back pain. Patient.Co.Uk Professional Reference., accessed May 2018
⁶ All about upper back pain. Spine-Health., accessed May 2018
⁷ Lower back pain symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment. Spine-Health., accessed May 2018
⁸ Back pain - low (without radiculopathy). Nice Clinical Knowledge Summaries.!diagnosissub, accessed May 2018
⁹ Derry S Et Al. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2016
¹⁰ Zacher J Et Al. Topical diclofenac and its role in pain and inflammation: An evidence-based review. Curr Med Res Opin 2008; 24(4)
¹¹ McGuire L et al. Pain and Wound Healing in Surgical Patients. Ann Behav Med 2006;31:165–72.
¹² Predel Hg Et Al. Efficacy and safety of diclofenac diethylamine 1.16% gel in acute neck pain: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. BMC Musculoskeletal Disord 2013; 14:250.
¹³ Gan Tj. Diclofenac: An update on its mechanism of action and safety profile. Medical Research & Opinion 2010; 26:1715–31.

Learn more

How does Voltarol work?

Learn how Voltarol works to relieve pain, reduce inflammation and help speed up recovery.

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Pains & Treatments

Find out how you should treat your specific type of pain…

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What is inflammation?

Learn all about the processes that cause inflammation, why it happens and how it can make our bodies feel.

*GSK Global Pain Index Research 2014, report, p.40

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