Low Back Pain

Low Back Pain is a very common condition (second only to the common cold). It affects 80 to 90% of the population at some stage in their lifetime. It is not a problem of old people – 50% of children will have experienced back pain by the time they reach 15.

Low back pain is a common problem and is caused by many different things. Often a definite source of the pain is never found.

Recovery Is The Rule

Fortunately, low back pain is mild and short lived in most cases. 80 to 90% of people with acute low back pain recover within 12 weeks. Serious injuries are uncommon, and can be identified relatively easily.

Unfortunately low back pain has the bad habit of repeating itself from time to time. Do not be surprised if you have more than one episode.

What To Look For

Some symptoms should be taken seriously if associated with back pain:

  • The young (under 15) and the elderly (over 60).
  • Pain at night or when resting.
  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • High temperatures.
  • Sudden severe pain after mild trauma (a simple fall).
  • Repeated infections.
  • Sharp pain that travels down the leg to the ankle and foot.

Contact you doctor immediately if you experience these symptoms.


The medical evidence in favour of early, progressive activity and avoidance of bed rest for the management of LBP is substantial.

Early activity and exercise are the key to successful management of acute low back pain.

Individuals who remain active and physically fit have fewer recurrences (and their attacks are also shorter). There is ample evidence that bed rest for more than one or two days is not an effective therapy and often delays recovery.


Back surgery is only required in very few occasions (less than 1%). There are different types of surgery but low back pain (generally) is NOT a surgical condition.


Your doctor may prescribe medication (usually painkillers and anti-inflammatory tablets). They all have the same goal (to reduce the pain) but their effects are different. Make sure that you take your tablets as you have been advised.

Even if you need to rest in bed, you should be active (up and about) at least one hour every day doing physical activity (like walking up and down the corridor, or in the garden, street or local park).


Low back pain is often the result of a combination of factors…

  • Poor physical condition.
  • Poor health.
  • Bad postural habits.
  • Stress and lifestyle.

In children hamstring tightness and hours spent in front of the television are also risk factors for low back pain. Healthy lifestyle, regular exercise and identifying the causes of stress are the foundation to prevent or minimise low back pain.

In summary

Low back pain is frequent but generally not serious. Most people recover quickly.

  • Avoid bed rest.
  • Change position at least every half hour.
  • Return to your normal activities as soon as possible (including work).
  • Take enough pain killers or anti-inflammatory tablets (as your doctor has advised you). Do not wait “until the pain is bad”.
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