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2 min read

Back pain: How staying active can help

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If you have back pain, your instinct may be to stay in bed or move as little as possible to avoid making the injury worse. However, it’s now known that resting for long periods is likely to make the pain worse.

In fact, people who remain active are likely to recover more quickly.

How to stay active when you have back pain

When you have back pain, moving around as normal may be difficult at first, but don't be discouraged – your pain will start to improve eventually. Consider taking painkillers if the pain is stopping you from carrying on as normal.

While it’s important to stay active, take care to avoid doing things that make your back worse. This includes:

  • heavy lifting
  • sitting for long periods of time
  • bending over
  • twisting your back

Should I go back to work if I have a bad back?

There's no need to wait until you're completely pain-free before returning to work. Going back to work will help you return to a normal pattern of activity and may distract you from the pain.

If you need adjustments to your work environment to make it easier to work with back pain, contact your occupational health or human resources department.

However, if your job involves manual labour that includes heavy lifting, twisting and bending your back, you should avoid this part of your job until your doctor tells you it is safe to do so.

Find out more about other ways to manage back pain.

Key points

  • if you have back pain, it’s usually better to stay active, as resting for long periods may make the pain worse
  • try to avoid things that may make your back worse, such as heavy lifting, sitting for, long periods of time, bending over or twisting your back
  • you shouldn’t need to wait until the pain passes to return to work - going back to work may even help you return to normal activities

Date of last review: 24 June 2020

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Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.