Back pain

Back pain is very common and usually improves within a few weeks or months.

Pain in the lower back (lumbago) is particularly common, although it can be felt anywhere along the spine, from the neck down to the hips.

In most cases the pain is not caused by anything serious and will usually get better over time.

There are things you can do to help relieve it. But sometimes the pain can last a long time or keep coming back.

The following tips may help reduce your back pain and speed up your recovery:

Although it can be difficult, it helps if you stay optimistic and recognise that your pain should get better. People who manage to stay positive despite their pain tend to recover quicker.

Back pain usually gets better on its own within a few weeks or months and you may not need to see a doctor or other healthcare professional.

But it's a good idea to get help if:

If you see a GP they will ask about your symptoms, examine your back and discuss possible treatments. 

They may refer you to a specialist doctor or a physiotherapist for further help.

Alternatively, you may want to consider contacting a physiotherapist directly. Some NHS physiotherapists accept appointments without a doctor's referral, or you could choose to pay for private treatment.

Read more about how to get access to physiotherapy.

A GP, specialist or physiotherapist may recommend extra treatments if they do not think your pain will improve with self-help measures alone.

These may include:

Some people choose to see a therapist for manual therapy without seeing a GP first. If you want to do this, you'll usually need to pay for private treatment.

Surgery is generally only considered in the small number of cases where back pain is caused by a specific medical condition.

It's often not possible to identify the cause of back pain. Doctors call this non-specific back pain.

Sometimes the pain may be from an injury such as a sprain or strain, but often it happens for no apparent reason. It's very rarely caused by anything serious.

Occasionally back pain can be caused by a medical condition such as:

These conditions tend to cause additional symptoms, such as numbness, weakness or a tingling sensation, and they're treated differently from non-specific back pain.

It's difficult to prevent back pain, but the following tips may help reduce your risk:

You should contact a GP or NHS 111 immediately if you have back pain and:

These problems could be a sign of something more serious and need to be checked urgently.