Back pain symptoms

Back pain symptoms most commonly manifest themselves in the lower back but may also affect other parts of the spine.

S.A.C. Dip (Diet, Exercise & Fitness), Advanced Human Anatomy & Physiology Level 3
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An introduction to the symptoms of back pain

Back pain is a very common problem and many people will experience it at some point during their lives. Most often, it is not a problem that should worry you as it is rarely an indication of an underlying serious health issue.

People with back pain most often complain of symptoms such as an ache, stiffness or even cramping pain in the lower part of the back. However, these pains can also occur in the upper part of the back  or in the neck and shoulders. In many cases, symptoms improve within a few days or weeks without the need for medical help.

How long do the symptoms last?

This can vary considerably. Depending on how long symptoms last, back pain can be categorised as ‘acute’ or ‘chronic’.

  • acute back pain – lasts for less then six weeks
  • sub-acute back pain – lasts between six weeks and three months
  • chronic back pain – lasts longer than three months

When are back pain symptoms serious?

Occasionally, back pain can be associated with symptoms such as:

  • fever
  • swelling and heat in the back
  • pain in the legs and knee
  • incontinence
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • numbness of the limbs
  • unexplained weight loss
  • pain that is worse at night

If any of these so called ‘red flag symptoms’ occur, your GP must be contacted immediately as they may be indicating a more serious underlying problem to the pain.

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How should I treat my symptoms?

The cause of your back pain and the type of your symptoms will determine the most effective treatment for you. It is often worth visiting your doctor to check for any underlying health problems, or to see if medical intervention will expedite your recovery.

There are certain back pain exercises which will improve the strength and flexibility of your back, and also the rest of your body. This should help ease your current symptoms and also prevent episodes of back pain from recurring.

There is also a range of treatments such as osteopathy and acupuncture which are effective in improving back pain symptoms. These can be used alongside herbal remedies such as Arnica gel, for a specific area of pain or Devil’s claw for joint pain.

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