Links to further information:
Back pain is very common affecting 4 out of 5 people at some stage of their life. The most common causes are sprains, muscle strains, minor injuries or a pinched or irritated nerve and will get better over 4-12 weeks. Key points to be aware of include:
- When you have back pain, AVOID bed rest. This does not help and can make you worse.
- Keep as active as you can, avoid heavy lifting or twisting movements
- When to see the doctor - see a doctor straight away if you have any weakness in your lower legs, develop any bowel or bladder problems (such as incontinence) or numbness over your buttocks and anal region.
- If you have chronic back pain (pain lasting 12 weeks or more) see a health professional for a proper assessment.
- Preventing back pain is very important - keeping active and good posture are two key activities you can do that help.
Lower back pain (of the lumbosacral spine) is the second most common cause of missed work. (The most common cause is the common cold!) It costs the country hundreds of millions of dollars a year through ACC payments, sick leave costs to businesses and the personal cost to individuals and families of lost income, pain and suffering!
Back pain can come on slowly over a few days or weeks or it can start suddenly from reaching or twisting. Simple muscle strains or spasms are usually the reason and tend to come right in a few weeks.
This is known as acute or short term back pain and usually lasts less than three months, after which normal function returns.
Chronic (long term) back pain tends to develop over time, lasts more than three months and can cause ongoing physical, mental and social disabilities.
When to see a health professional
If you have any of the following, see your doctor, a physiotherapist or nurse for a proper assessment of your back pain:
- You have tried simple measures like in the Back Pain video above for a few weeks and your pain is not getting better
- If you have any new weakness in your lower legs, develop any bowel or bladder problems (such as incontinence) or numbness over your buttocks and anal region, see your doctor or an after hours clinic immediately. These are considered RED flags and a medical emergency.
|Back Pain videos - series of short videos explaining causes, treatment and prevention|
|Back Pain Introduction|
|Back Pain - the Essentials|
|Back Pain - What is it?|
|Back Pain - Overview & Tutorial|
|The Pain Toolkit and Website|
|Factsheet - caring for acute back pain|
|Book – “Treat your own Back” by Robin McKenzie|
|Back Pain - Questions to Ask Your Doctor|
|Back Pain - Treatments|
|Treat Your Own Back|
|View Paul's story of how physiotherapy has helped reduce his pain|
|Acute Low Back Pain - June 09|
|Acute Low Back Pain Guide by ACC NZ - full guideline|
|Training Options in the McKenzie Method|
|Management of non-specific back pain and lumbar radiacular pain - June 2009|
|Acute Low Back Pain - Clinical Resource|
Date last reviewed [Date Reviewed]