Managing back pain this festive season

Jason Lee has some handy hints to help you manage back pain.

Woman holding lower back in pain

Lower back pain is a common condition that affects up to 80 per cent of people at some point in their lives. As a physiotherapist, back pain is a very common condition that presents at the clinic. The spine is a strong and flexible structure that is designed to withstand large amounts of force. It has a numerous structures including bones, discs, ligaments and muscles, which can all cause lower back pain. 

I have heard of a wide variety of self-management techniques, some better than others, that people have tried before seeing me. Should you start to experience back pain in the upcoming weeks, it is important to ensure that you know what to do so that the pain does not stop you from enjoying this festive season. 

The most important response when experiencing back pain is keeping active. Current evidence suggests that encouraging early movement and mobility is crucial to a quick and speedy recovery. Early movement reduces the likelihood of muscular spasm, further joint stiffness or associated muscular weakness. Often I recommend that you try and continue with your normal routine. You may perform particular tasks slower or more carefully than previously, but continuing with your normal routine is a great way to keep moving. 

Walking, even for short periods of time, is great for keeping the spine moving. Generally, the only activities that should be reduced are tasks that may be repetitive and below knee height.  Constant and repetitive bending does place an increased load through the low back over a prolonged period. 

Pain relief can help you keep active. If you are experiencing back pain, speak to your local chemist or doctor who’ll be able to recommend pain relief if needed. Some pain relieving strategies to try at home include using a heat pack or hot shower. Ensure that you do not burn yourself, but heat can be applied for up to 10–15 minutes several times a day. Self-massage using topical gels and creams often can have a similar benefit to heat. Heat assists in relieving muscle spasm and provides temporary relief. 

Reducing the amount of time spent in awkward positions can also be beneficial. Try to minimise time spent sitting, as this places a significant amount of constant load on the spine. A good guideline is to aim for sitting up to 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, it’s sufficient to stand up and then sit back down immediately. A firm chair is better, as soft chairs typically encourage a slouched position that puts more stress and strain through the low back. 

When sleeping at night, aim for a comfortable position. Try placing a pillow underneath your knees if lying on your back. Side sleepers can often use a pillow between the knees. This commonly places the spine in a neutral position. 

Importantly, ensure that you see your health professional as soon as possible. The earlier your assessment and treatment begins, the quicker your recovery and less downtime, if any, you’ll have.

The spine is very complex, with a range of different structures that may cause lower back pain. Whilst the majority of pain episodes settle quickly, it is important to address the causes of your back pain to prevent recurrent episodes or symptoms.

Physiotherapists are well equipped to assess and treat the underlying cause of your lower back pain. 

Jason Lee APAM

B. Physiotherapy

Malvern East Physiotherapy

Jason is happy to answer any questions you may have, simply send an email to [email protected]

Tips to manage lower back pain

Walk to alleviate lower back pain

Should I use heat or ice?


    To make a comment, please register or login
    Nan Norma
    21st Dec 2015
    My husband suffered a lot from back pain but found walking every day very beneficial.
    Tom Tank
    21st Dec 2015
    As a chronic back pain sufferer I can attest to the above advice. Movement is the key and a good walk can work wonders. A good supportive chair that helps prevent slouching is a great help.
    Car seats can be real trap for a "bad" back and I have enjoyed the use of a specialist car seat for some years now and can drive all day without any undue effect. The seat was not cheap but worth every cent and is made by Recaro. It is more comfortable than any chair we have in the home.
    21st Dec 2015
    Some back pain may benefit form walking but not all especially if you have a fractured spine
    21st Dec 2015
    I have chronic degenerative spinal disease and find walking, swimming and practicing exercises to strengthen core muscles keep me mobile. For pain, frequent positional changes are of benefit as is a heat pack.
    21st Dec 2015
    The recommendations above need to be taken with caution, as not all sufferers' have the same underlying condition.
    21st Dec 2015
    All of the above posts have merit.
    I sort of agree with the author. Unless you have stabbing pains whenever the slightest movement is made then moving is the best best way (from personal experience) to get you back to normal.
    I have had 4 bad back experiences in my life, most of them from not bending my knees when I picked up something heavy.
    For me one of the best ways to relieve back pain is a hot bath and/or heat rub as the pain reduces when the muscles holding the spine in place are relaxed. Hopefully I won't ever have to use either again. Ok....pigs will fly.
    Brian from HomeExchange50plus
    21st Dec 2015
    I have issues with my lower back so do regular daily exercises following several sessions with a physio to make sure that I am doing them correctly and I use heat pads when playing golf and standing for long periods which do help. My doctor once described my problem as "an old man's back" thanks!.

    21st Dec 2015
    Sitting puts the most strain (pressure) on your spine, followed by standing, with lying down the least.

    21st Dec 2015
    "Mediterranean" back is the hardest to diagnose, can only be relieved with continuing Disability Pension cheques, and is more often than not hereditary in nature.
    22nd Dec 2015
    OH dear dear Eddie, have a good one lol pmsl

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