Can Back Pain Ever Get Better?
Back pain is usually a short-term (acute) condition, getting better in a few days or a few weeks – however, for some people, it can become a (long-term) chronic condition.
Why Does Back Pain Become Long Term?If the back pain is caused by a simple muscle or tendon strain, or a sprained ligament, perhaps from lifting something that is heavy, turning awkwardly or just overusing the back muscles, it is likely to get better in a couple of weeks (see ‘Strains, Sprains and Back Pain’). Back pain caused by certain conditions should get better once the situation resolves itself provided there is no serious damage – for example, back pain caused by infections in the spine should improve once the infection and inflammation have resolved, and back pain caused by pregnancy should resolve after childbirth (see ‘Back Pain and Pregnancy’).
However, for some people back pain becomes a long-term condition, which can cause difficulties with work and day-to-day life.
Stopping Back Pain from Becoming Long TermIf the back pain does not get better after a couple of weeks, or if it begins to gets worse, it is important to see a doctor. Prompt treatment, which may involve rest, heat or cold treatment, painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs, surgery, physiotherapy or retraining, could prevent back pain from becoming long term.
Avoiding certain situations and activities, or changing behaviour, can prevent back pain from becoming long term.
- Sitting – it is important to sit in a good position, with plenty of back support, whether it is at a computer desk, in a car, or at home watching television.
- Lifting weights – avoid lifting or carrying too much at any one time, and lift carefully, with a straight back and bent knees. Don’t twist whilst lifting.
- Bending – avoid bending for long periods.
- Sleeping – make sure the mattress is firm enough to provide support (try slipping a board underneath if it has become too soft).
- Relaxing – tension and stress can make back pain worse.
- Keeping moving - after initial rest following a back injury it's important to keep moving as much as possible.
Coping with Long Term Back PainIt should be possible to continue work with back pain, perhaps with changes to the workplace, for example a different chair of a better desk set up. Some jobs may be difficult to continue with severe back pain, and the Department for Work & Pensions should be able to arrange an assessment and possible retraining and additional equipment if required.
Chronic conditions can cause low mood and depression (see ‘Back Pain and Depression’). Treatment with antidepressants can help the low mood, but can also help the back pain. Exercise and relaxation therapies can also help the combination of low mood and back pain. It is important to see a doctor with concerns about depression.