The types and causes of back pain
Many things can cause back pain, and some are more common than others. Here are a few medically recognised types and causes of back pain.
When to take action
Speak to your doctor
3 ways to keep your back healthy
1. How to strengthen your back
“The following 5 exercises could help you to strengthen your lower and upper back, as well as helping to prevent back pain. You can do these with or without weights, but for beginners, 3 to 8kg is a good place to start. Aim for 3 sets of 12 reps to improve your muscle endurance and posture.”
– Elle Mackenzie, level 3 personal trainer (REPs and CIMSPA accredited) and fitness editor at UK-based gym network, Hussle.
Start by lying face down on the floor or on a mat. Place your hands either behind your back, at your temples or out in front of you. Raise your upper body off the floor to about 45 degrees. Pause at the top, then lower back down slowly.
Single-arm bent over rows
Start by placing your right hand and right knee on a raised surface like a bench or chair. Make sure your back is parallel to the floor. Place one end of a resistance band under your foot and hold the other in your hand. Draw your elbow up toward the ceiling. Lower back down to the starting position and repeat. Don’t forget to swap sides.
With your feet hip-width apart and your chest facing forward, push your hips back and bend knees. At the bottom, drive your hips forward to push back up to standing. Make sure to keep a flat back throughout the movement.
Start with your feet firmly on the ground, hip-width apart and your hands at your temples. Pull your tummy in and bend your upper body forward until you feel a slight pull in your hamstrings. Slowly return up to standing, maintaining a flat back at all times.
Place either your hands or forearms on the ground and form a straight line with your whole body. Make sure you're holding your body off the ground, so only your hands or forearms and the balls of your feet are touching the floor. Pull your tummy in and hold this position for as long as you can.
2. Yoga poses to improve your posture
“Yoga is a great way to strengthen your back's core muscles and can help prevent back pain. The 5 poses below can easily be done at home and may help improve your all-round back strength and your posture.”
– Nadège Louvet, wellness expert at wellness treatment booking platform, Urban (REPs level 4 personal trainer and instructor, with 200 hours yoga training in vinyasa, hatha, asthanga and 60 hours training in yin yoga).
Kneel down and sit on your heels, then open your knees wider than your chest. Bend forward from the hip and bring your torso down to rest between your legs. Lengthen your spine and stretch your arms forward on the mat, over your head, with your palms facing down. As an alternative, try keeping your arms alongside your legs and shifting your shoulders forward.
(Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Place your feet hip-width apart and push down into the floor with your heels. Spread your toes and fingers wide, and plant your palms firmly onto the mat. Slowly lift your hips toward the ceiling. Soften your knees and straighten your legs. Rotate your shoulders outward and fix your gaze on the gap between your knees. Remember to breathe.
Bend forward from the hips while lengthening your back and torso. If possible, straighten your legs but take care not to lock your knees. Place your palms (or fingertips, if it’s easier) on the floor, then, pressing your heels firmly downward, lift your pelvis up toward the ceiling. Keep your nose close to your knees, close your eyes and focus.
Keep your stance wide with your feet parallel to the long edge of the mat. Turn your right foot 90 degrees to the right and your left foot slightly inward. Move your torso forward and down above your front leg. Shift your hips back and bring your left arm up, turning your chest toward the ceiling. Place your right hand on the floor (or on your shin or a block) and press down firmly through your back foot and front heel. Breathe in through your nose and find your balance.
Stand along the long side of your mat and face forward. Spread your legs so your feet are wide apart. Turn your head to look at the front of your mat. Now bend your front knee to 90 degrees, making sure you can still see your big toe. Then, lengthen your back leg. Raise your arms up to shoulder height with your palms facing down. One arm should be in front and the other behind you. Fix your gaze on your front hand’s middle finger. Breathe in and out through your nose. Find your power.
3. Beat back pain with Healthily
See what’s wrong
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Healthily helps you understand your health, take action
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When to take action
You should see a doctor if you have back pain and you:
- can’t do your daily activities (including sleeping) because the pain is so bad
- notice that the pain hasn’t gotten better after 4 weeks
- recently had a fall or an injury to your back
- have numbness or weakness in your legs.
- have lost weight without meaning to
- have chest pain, or the pain feels worse when you cough, sneeze or poo
- feel unwell, have a fever or have a swelling in your back
- have trouble controlling when you poo or pee
- have or have had cancer, osteoporosis (weak bones), diabetes or a medical condition that weakens your immune system
- take steroid medication
Speak to your doctor
- a high temperature (fever)
- you've lost weight without meaning to
- a swelling or deformity in your back
- it does not improve after resting or is worse at night
- the pain prevents you from sleeping
- the pain is worse when sneezing, coughing or openingyour bowels
- the pain is coming from the top of your back, between your shoulders, rather than the lower back