When to Seek Medical Treatment for Back Pain

Back pain is very common, and will usually improve without treatment over a few weeks or months. Pain in the lower back is most common, although you may feel it anywhere your neck to your hips. In most cases, back pain has no serious cause and will get better over time.

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How To Relieve Back Pain

You can reduce back pain and speed up your recovery. 

  • Stay as active as you can and try to continue your daily activities. Rest for long periods can make the pain worse, so keep moving. 
  • Try exercises and stretches for back pain. Walking, swimming, yoga, and pilates can also help. 
  • Take anti-inflammatory painkillers, like ibuprofen. Check the medicine is safe for you to take. Ask a pharmacist if you aren’t sure. 
  • Use hot or cold compression packs. Buy these from a pharmacy, or use a hot water bottle or a bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel. 

It can be hard when you’re in pain, but try to stay optimistic. Remember that your pain will get better. People who manage to stay positive despite back pain usually recover more quickly. Don’t sabotage your health by getting down-hearted. 



Getting Help And Advice

In most cases, back pain will get better on its own within a few weeks or months, so you may not need to see a doctor or another healthcare professional. If you are worried about more serious back problems, you can use this website for advice. 

Get help for your back pain if:

  • Your back pain doesn’t begin to improve within a few weeks. 
  • Your pain is stopping you from doing your day to day activities.
  • Your back pain is very severe or it gets worse over time. 
  • You’re worried about the pain or are struggling to cope with it. 

If you decide to see your doctor about your pain, they will ask about your symptoms, examine your back, and talk about possible treatments with you. They might refer you to a specialist or a physiotherapist for more help. 

You might want to reach out to a physiotherapist directly. Some will take appointments without a referral from a doctor. 



Treatments For Back Pain

A doctor, specialist, or physiotherapist might suggest extra treatments if they don’t think your pain will improve with self-help measures alone. These treatments might include:

  • Exercise classes where you will be taught exercises that will strengthen the muscles and improve posture. 
  • Manual therapy treatments, like manipulating the spine, or massage, which will be done by a physiotherapist, chiropractor, or osteopath. 
  • Psychological support, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This can be very helpful is you are struggling to cope with your pain. 


Some people might choose to see a therapist for manual therapy without consulting your doctor first. If you want to do this, you might need to pay more for treatment.

Surgery is usually only considered in a very small number of cases, where more serious back pain is caused by specific medical conditions. 

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