Acute Back Pain

Acute back pain is common, but can be very painful and worrying.

  • 80% of the population experience acute back pain sometime during their life
  • 50% of people experience a period of back pain every year

Acute back pain is defined as a pain in the back between the lower ribs and the top of the buttock crease. ‘Acute’ means that the pain lasts less than six weeks.

Acute pain usually results from inflammation caused by irritation or injury, but quite often it has no obvious or known cause. This type of pain could have its origin located in the spinal joints, discs, vertebras, or soft tissues. Acute pain is primarily experienced in the lower back and it may also be called lumbago, idiopathic low back pain, lumbosacral strain or sprain, or sciatica.

Acute pain is usually constant and ranging in severity. It is commonly very sharp or a dull ache and can be more severe in one area, such as the center or both sides the lower back. The pain may also spread to the buttocks, thighs, knees, or even feet.

Acute pain that aggravated by forward movement of the spine and worsened by coughing is typical of a herniated disc or stress fracture.

Fortunately acute back pain usually gets better on its own and the sufferer can get on with life, occasionally taking painkillers when the pain is at its worst.

Some people experience spasms or locking – getting stuck in one position. Don’t panic if this happens; the back muscles always unlock. If you are suffering from prolonged back ache you should seek professional advice, but usually the key to a quick recover is good pain control and regular movement, returning to full activity as soon as possible.

Research over the last 10 years shows that bed rest is harmful and is likely to prolong recovery time.

Pain Control

Pain control is a very important part of the recovery process.

Many of the

pain killers available without a prescription can be effective. Combining Paracetamol with an anti-inflammatory is quite safe as they work in different ways.

Taking 400g

of Ibruprofen three times a day is safe and effective for most people. It is an anti-inflammatory, a good analgesic and pain killer.

Paracetamol works both centrally within the brain and at the point of pain. It is a particularly effective for back pain.

Occasionally over the counter pain killers are not sufficient and stronger ones are required. Most are only available on prescription so will require a visit to your doctor or back specialist.

People suffering from back pain are often concerned that after relieving the pain using pain killers they are at risk of making the problem worse by aggravating their back without realising it. This is very unlikely as the body has a protective reflex which are not dulled by pain killers. If you took pain killers and then held your hand over a flame you would immediately feel the pain. In the same way your body will tell you if you were aggravating your back if you use pain killers.