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Back pain relief

Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Roger HendersonReviewed on 29.04.2024 | 5 minutes read

Back pain will affect most of us and it usually improves by itself within a few days or weeks. Musculoskeletal back pain is the most common type of back pain, and it typically occurs in the lower back. This is the most vulnerable part to injury, and it can arise when you've lifted something heavy with incorrect positioning, or over time from overuse or incorrect posture.

Doctors call this injury mechanical back pain. It mostly affects those aged between 40 and 60, and it can affect work and usual activities while you recover. Most cases are managed without seeing your doctor. Top tips are to avoid strenuous activity and treat yourself with gentle stretches or hot and cold compresses, plus painkillers if needed.

Here at Healthwords, we will always tell you that prevention is better than cure. But once you’ve got a musculoskeletal back injury, you’ll want to do all you can to get back on your feet and free from pain, and we’ve got some suggestions for you.

Doctor’s advice

Treatment: products

Pain and stiffness can often shortly occur after a muscle injury to the back. Paracetamol is a safe and sensible place to start when reaching for back pain relief, with relatively few risks or side effects, if taken as instructed. It’s well-tolerated and may be sufficient for occasional mild pain that occurs for just a brief time. It’s also safe in pregnancy. It should be avoided in those with a known liver condition.

Another good first-line option is non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) which are a class of medications that work on pain and dampen down inflammation. Ibuprofen has a similar effect on pain as paracetamol, but can be particularly effective in cases of back pain, where mild inflammation causes much of the pain.

NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) can help to relieve the swelling and inflammation – especially in in musculoskeletal injuries – that causes back pain and loss of function. These include ibuprofen and aspirin, and stronger versions are available on prescription.

Taken regularly for a few days, NSAIDs can be very effective. They should be taken with food to minimise any irritation to the stomach lining or increasing reflux issues. NSAIDs should be avoided in pregnancy. Tablets should also be avoided in those with NSAID-sensitive asthma, a long-term kidney condition, on certain medications or those with a stomach ulcer. Aspirin is not suitable for those under 16.

A proton pump inhibitor (PPI) may be recommended by your doctor or pharmacist to protect the stomach lining, if you suffer from excess acid or acid reflux. These are available on prescription or to buy at the pharmacy, such as Nexium Control (contains esomeprazole) or Pyrocalm tablets (contains omeprazole).

Alternatively, if you want to avoid tablets, you could try creams or gels that contain anti-inflammatory agents, such as Voltarol Back and Muscle Pain Relief 1.16% Gel, containing diclofenac.

How can I prevent back pain?

Strengthening your core muscles through conditioning training is the best thing you can do for your back. It doesn’t just give you an abdominal six-pack (who doesn’t want that?), it strengthens the paraspinal muscles that hug the spine and the deep abdominal muscles you can’t see, which supports your spine while it’s under the duress of everyday life. Your posture will improve, too, leaving you standing taller and straighter. Pilates is particularly good for this, or specific core exercise programmes and weight training.

Keeping muscles stretched and flexible also keeps them in good health. Yoga and swimming are very good for this, and making sure you take time to warm up and down after any exercise session or period where you expect the back to be put to work. Even a spinal stretch after you get up can help – all vertebrates including your cat or dog take time for a good morning stretch.

Learning the right lifting techniques can help protect your back – in a nutshell, it’s keeping a wide stance, straight back and bending at the knees, to keep an even distribution. And no twisting while you lift.

Adjusting your workplace set-up may improve posture to protect your back, such as keeping your computer screen at eye level, forearms and hands at waist height and rested on the desk, and hips, knees and ankles at right angles, with feet flat on the floor.

Good bone health is a lifelong commitment of a calcium and vitamin D-fuelled diet or supplements, especially vitamin D in the winter, and regular exercise, alternating cardiovascular activity that gets you out of breath with high impact sports that improve bone density.

Pharmacist recommended products

Back Pain Health Kit 1
Effective relief for
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Additional pain relief
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Relax muscles
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Warming relief
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Reduces pain and inflammation
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Recommended by pharmacist
Why this Health Kit

Musculoskeletal injuries are the most cause of back pain, and they often bring on pain and stiffness, and muscle inflammation can lead to nerves getting pinched, which causes further distress.

The products in this Health Kit can work together to provide maximum benefit as you recover, helping to ease the inflammation that makes your back feel so painful and soothe the injured muscles.

This Health Kit aims to:

  • Provide soothing warming relief from back muscle spasms throughout the day.
  • Reduce inflammation, stiffness and pinching of the nerves that can lead to shooting nerve pain.
  • Give you add-on options so you can control any extra relief needed to get you through the day.

Deep Heat Pain Relief Patches provide targeted relief from muscle spasms by radiating heat to relax and repair sore muscles, and either offer a drug-free pain relief option or can be used alongside medication.

Heat therapy is well-regarded by healthcare professionals for its restorative qualities in targeting muscle injury and stiffness, which helps to ease pain in the short-term and ultimately helps to restore your movement. It also stimulates blood flow to the affected area, delivering oxygen and nutrients to aid healing.

Nurofen Caplets contain ibuprofen, which acts as an effective anti-inflammatory medication to reduce pain and inflammation. Inflammation often leads to stiffness, and with lower muscular back pain, swelling can also cause pinching of the sciatic nerves in the lower back, sending shooting pain down the leg. The caplets are in an easy-to-swallow shape too.

Panadol Advance Tablets contain paracetamol for fast additional pain relief, and you can take them alongside Nurofen. Optizorb technology™ helps disperse the paracetamol up to five times faster than standard paracetamol tablets. It can work on relieving your aches and pains in just 10 minutes.

You should start to feel better after 3 or 4 days, however, you should see your local minor injury unit if symptoms do not start to improve, or alternatively seek help from a health practitioner such as your GP or a physiotherapist.

When should I see my doctor?

If your pain is not improving after a few weeks despite care and exercise at home, if the pain is severe or getting worse, or if it is affecting your daily activities, you should see your doctor to discuss this.

Concerning signs that suggest you should book an urgent appointment with your doctor are lack of control when peeing or pooing, numbness around the buttocks and back passage, numbness in your legs, weakness of your lower legs, fevers or night sweats without an obvious cause, weight loss, or back pain that wakes you up at night. If you get back pain and you are under 18 or over 50 years old, you should request an urgent appointment with your doctor to discuss the cause.

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Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Roger Henderson
Reviewed on 29.04.2024
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