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Sudden onset back pain - what to do?

If you have suffered sudden onset back pain 'out of hours' or are waiting for an appointment with us the following should help you manage the situation:-

Most often back pain is not medically serious. However it can be very painful and unpleasant. If you can manage the situation well you will suffer less. 

Back pain is as a result of a strain, mechanical back pain, or as a result of more fundamental damage such as disc prolapse or trauma from a fall. Underlying developmental factors or degeneration of the joints and discs can pay a part. 50% of paints who suffer back pain also have leg pain known as 'sciatica'.

What to do:-
- pain control - a combination of non- steroidal anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen and paracetamol is a good start if there is no medical reason why you shouldn't take them. The next stage if you are not coping involves stronger anti-inflammatories and codeine based drugs from your doctor. These may be combined with a muscle relaxant as the third stage. Beyond these and if you are still not coping then morphine based drugs can be needed. If you cannot control your pain with the drugs you are using you should speak to your doctor or 'out of hours' service. We are happy to advise you during practice hours.
- ice packs over the affected area can reduce inflammation. Apply over the affected area for 15 minutes and then return the pack to the freezer for an hour and reapply. Use a thin cloth to protect your skin from ice 'burn'. Do not use heat with sudden onset problems.
- if you can, keep generally mobile as this helps spasm to subside. Avoid heavy or repetitive movement and where at all possible avoid sitting which overloads the joints. If it is too painful to keep mobile then you may have to bedrest for 24 hrs or so to let the pain and spasm ease.
- if you can follow the above and try not to force your own or work agenda onto your back you will increase the chances of improvement in the early stages.

When booking an appointment, let us know if your situation is urgent so we can prioritise an appointment for you, 01394 387818 or you can book online at

In a small percentage of cases back pain can become a medical emergency:-

- loss of control of bladder and bowel, whether frequency or retention
- with underlying medically complex situations involving past history or recent problems such as infection

If you have the above of feel your situation is 'out of control' you should seek medical help. During practice hours, we will of course be pleased to advise.

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