Back pain is so common almost everyone has an episode of back pain in their lifetime. Although usually these are due to soft tissue issues causing a back strain occasionally there are more distressing causes of back pain which need to be evaluated and treated appropriately.
Even so conservative treatment is the initial treatment of choice for most back conditions. We work closely with physiotherapists to ensure a multimodal treatment for low back pain which can very disruptive for patients in terms of work, sports and activities of daily living.
Should these fail there are surgical options. Surgery for the lower back is not as invasive as it was in previous years. Microdiscectomies and minimally invasive fusion surgeries allow rapid rehabilitation and shorter hospital stays.
Why does my back hurt?
- Back pain is usually due to spasms of the muscles of the back.
- Usually, there is no serious underlying cause and then it is termed ‘non-specific’
- There can be underlying conditions such as disc degeneration, arthritis and disc herniations.
Is it serious?
- Back pain is very common and normally gets better over a few days.
- Rarely pain may last for longer than a few weeks or may come and go. This does not mean your back problem is serious.
- Back pain is rarely due to serious disease or damage.
- Your spine is one of the strongest parts of your body and is surprisingly difficult to damage.
What should I do now?
- While this may be difficult due to the pain, resting for too long – especially bedrest, impedes your recovery. Pain worsening with activity does not necessarily mean damage.
- Gradual build up your activity levels as your pain im
- If you can, remain at work. If you cannot, try to return to work as soon as possible
- Simple analgesia such as Panadol is usually enough. Taking this regularly early on can help you recover faster. Stronger medications could be available from your doctor if Panadol is insufficient. Taking medication will not mask any serious cause of your back pain
Massage and compresses
- Hot or cold packs can provide some relief. A gentle massage can also help ease the spasms.
- Manipulations are best avoided when there is severe pain.
Should I see a specialist?
- Back pain, in most cases, is self-limiting and recovers with the above measures. However, if you have repeated bouts of pain, or if you are worried, do see a specialist for review.
- It is important to see your doctor if you develop difficulty passing or controlling your urine, there is change in sensation around your back passage or genitals, any numbness or weakness in both legs, unsteadiness when walking, severe pain that is worsening, you have a history of cancer elsewhere or if you feel unwell with fever, chills, rigors etc.
Do I need x-rays, scans or any blood tests?
- These are rarely useful in most patients with back pain. Your doctor would be able to guide you if you are worried.
How do I avoid back problems?
- Stop Smoking
- Learn how to lift objects safely without hurting your back
- Maintain fitness with activities such as cycling, swimming, yoga and other core strengthening exercises
- Observe the principles of ergonomics (see picture) at your workplace and in your home
- Avoid stress and try not to focus on your back pain. Try exercises that can calm you down
- Most back pain is not dangerous and resolves itself
- Maintaining activity is unlikely to damage your spine
- Simple medications and activity is the only required treatment in most cases
Are there any exercises that I can do at home?
- Yes, there is a brochure demonstrating simple exercises for back pain that you can safely and conveniently do by yourself at home
Ergonomics (Sitting Task)
- Place the monitor directly in front of you while ate the keyboard
- Position the top of the monitor screen at or below eye level.
- Tilt or swivel the monitor screen to eliminate reflections on the screen.
- Use a task light to illuminate documents properly.
- Use a document holder to place source documents for copy-typing purposes.
- Place the mouse and other input devices next to keyboard.
- Allow place for knees and feet to move freely under the work-station.
- Use the backrest of the chair to provide fill support particularly for the lower back.
- Adjust the height of the chair to keep forearms, wrists and hands in a straight line when using the keyboard.
- Ensure the chair allows you to obtain a 90° or greater angle at the hips and knees.
- Use a footrest if needed to ensure feet are rested on the ground.
- Don’t stay seated for long – stand up and stretch regularly after approximately 45 minutes.
- Apply the 20-20-20 rule to relieve tension in the spinal muscles. For every 20 minutes of computer usage, stretch or walk around for 20 seconds and look at least 6m away.